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Man accused of packing loaded gun at Burnaby mall during height of gang killings denied bail

Luis Manuel Baez, 24, was under two lifetime firearm bans when he was arrested at the Metrotown mall in May
Getty Images tucked handgun

The following is a report about a bail hearing, which means the alleged facts discussed have not yet been proven in court.

A 24-year-old man accused of hanging around a busy Burnaby mall with a loaded handgun tucked into the back of his pants at the height of a spate of fatal, public Lower Mainland gang shootings has been denied bail.

Luis Manuel Baez was arrested by Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers on May 18.

He had first drawn their attention shortly before 4 p.m. for smoking suspected marijuana too close to a doorway at the Metropolis at Metrotown mall, according to alleged facts presented at a bail hearing in Vancouver provincial court Wednesday.

Crown prosecutor Jonas Dow said the officers were ready to ticket him for a bylaw infraction when he made his way into the mall.

They tailed him for a time and finally approached him in a parkade after he left, according to the alleged facts.

As the officers were collecting information from him, Baez ran to a nearby vehicle, jumped inside and tried to take off, Dow said.

But officers got into the vehicle on either side of Baez, and a struggle ensued, according to Dow.

The officers lost their grip on Baez when they tumbled out of the vehicle, and Baez again took off, according to the alleged facts.

Baez is then alleged to have pulled out a handgun and thrown it under a nearby vehicle.

The 45-calibre pistol was recovered with six rounds of ammunition in the magazine, according to Dow.

Police also found three cell phones in Baez’s possession and two black rubber gloves, a black Nike mask and a black hat in the vehicle Baez had jumped into, according to the alleged facts.

Dow never mentioned the Lower Mainland gang conflict, which erupted in a series of fatal public shootings in May, but appeared to invoke it in a rhetorical question:

“What on earth compels someone to conceal a loaded handgun and go to Metrotown mall on a Tuesday at four o’clock in May?” he asked.

Dow also noted Baez had been under two lifetime firearms bans at the time.

He argued letting Baez out on bail could lead to a public loss of confidence in the justice system.

“People should feel safe they can go to the mall about their peaceful business and thugs carrying firearms aren’t going to be present,” he said.

Defence lawyer Kristy Lee Neurauter acknowledged the allegations against Baez were serious and the Crown had a strong case but said Baez had the right to be presumed innocent and to be granted reasonable bail.

She also noted there were a number of possible Charter challenges that, if successful, could render everything that led to the discovery of the handgun unlawful.

She said there were questions about whether the officers had had the right to detain Baez to ticket him for the cannabis infraction they alleged.

“It is not obstruction to flee unlawful detention,” Neurauter said.

She also noted possible excessive force, including “multiple blows to the back of the head,” the officers had used when they were struggling with him in the car.

“This occurs at a time where their only intention is to ticket him for smoking suspected marijuana – and the evidence about smoking marijuana isn’t even terribly clear,” she said.  

Neurauter urged Vancouver provincial court Judge John Milne to release Baez on a $5,000 cash deposit from his mother and an order requiring mandatory counselling and house arrest at a supervised drug treatment facility pending trial.

She noted Baez’s age, his family support and the fact he has agreed to addictions treatment for the first time in his life.

But Milne ultimately ruled to keep Baez in jail.

He is scheduled to return to Vancouver provincial court on Dec. 8 to set a date for his trial.

Baez has not yet entered pleas on the charges. None of the alleged facts presented at the bail hearing have been proven in court.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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