NEWS

5-time drunk driver gets 9 years for fatal crash that killed Garry Tatham

06/24/2015 07:38 EDT | Updated 06/24/2016 05:59 EDT
Brian Okemahwasin, a 42-year-old man with four previous convictions for drunk driving and a long history of alcohol abuse and crime, has been sentenced to nine years in prison over his latest drunk driving crash, when Garry Tatham was killed June 8, 2014.

The decision on sentencing was recently published to an online legal database.

In it, the judge noted Okemahwasin's troubled past — which included sexual abuse at an Indian Residential School — and an extensive criminal record revolving around alcohol.

"Mr. Okemahwasin's criminal record is shocking. He has been convicted of more than 200 offences since 1991," The judge said. "[His] life has been a continuous cycle of alcohol-fuelled criminal activity, arrests, sentencing and relapse. Gary Tatham is the most recent victim in this tragic cycle."

According to the decision, the Regina crash took place early in the morning on Albert Street.

Tatham was stopped at an intersection for a red light.

Okemahwasin, in a pickup truck, was severely intoxicated and was going 94 km/h in a 50 km/h zone when he drove (without braking) into Tatham's car, instantly killing the 61-year-year old man.

After the collision, Okemahwasin got out of his truck and began to walk away. 

A witness to the crash, who happened to be an off-duty police officer, checked on the crash victim and (after determining nothing could be done) ran to Okemahwasin, threw him to the ground and after a brief struggle was able to subdue him until on-duty officers arrived.

Driving all night

The judge noted that more than two hours after the crash Okemahwasin, who said he had been drinking and driving all night and did not know he was in Regina, had a blood alcohol reading that was almost four times the legal limit for driving.

Okemahwasin pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death.

In sentencing, the judge said careful consideration was given to the man's background.

"He bears the scars of the residential school legacy," the judge said. "He suffered abuse and traumatic events from which he has never fully recovered. Those events have played a role in shaping the person he is. He has become a chronic, dysfunctional alcoholic. He has been unable to rehabilitate himself or change his offending behaviour."

While the defence sought a lower period of prison time, four to six years, the judge opted for a nine-year sentence which was reduced by 17 months because of the time Okemahwasin spent in pre-trial custody.

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