03/11/2014 01:29 EDT | Updated 05/11/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C. judge has harsh words for man who shot roommate over unpaid rent

KELOWNA, B.C. - A judge in Kelowna, B.C., had some harsh words for a man sentenced to three years in prison for shooting his roommate after an argument over unpaid rent.

"If you want to intimidate someone maybe take an unloaded rifle," provincial court Judge Anne Wallace told Kenneth Ralston.

He was convicted of aggravated assault and using a firearm after shooting Michael Anderson in his right thigh three years ago.

Court heart Anderson could have died if not for a Mountie who tied a tourniquet around his leg to staunch the blood flow.

"You're lucky you didn't get convicted of manslaughter," Wallace said.

She said alcohol impaired Ralston's judgment to the point that he brought the loaded firearm and that even though he didn't intend to injure Anderson, he could have perceived that happening.

Ralston, 62, and Anderson were living with other roommates at a house near Lake Country when the incident occurred.

Anderson, who is in his late 40s, chopped firewood for a living, but forestry officials seized his truck because he didn't have a permit.

He'd fallen on hard times and couldn't pay the rent for February or March 2011, Crown lawyer Debra Pope said.

He was burning a couch outside by a fire pit when Ralston and his girlfriend arrived home on March 3.

Anderson thought he was cleaning up the property, while Ralston concluded he was destroying the patio furniture, Pope said. The men argued and Ralston left.

Hours later, Anderson was watching TV in the house when Ralston entered with a rifle. He threatened to shoot him if he didn't move out or pay $800 for two months' rent, Pope said.

Court heard Anderson said he had a job lined up, but Ralston was fed up and shot him in the right thigh.

Anderson collapsed, bleeding heavily. Ralston tried to tie a tourniquet. He ran out to call 911 and came back to help his roommate.

Ralston told police he was messing around with the gun when it went off.

Anderson spent several weeks in hospital and has been unable to work since then, he said in a statement.

Ralston's defence lawyer Gavin Jones said his client was frightened of Anderson, who is younger and stronger. Ralston is a kind, gentle man with many friends, he said.

The judge also admonished Ralston for four prior convictions of impaired driving.

Wallace acknowledged Ralston's guilty plea. She commended him for calling 911, being remorseful and staying at the house when police arrived.

She sentenced him to two years for the assault and one year for discharging the rifle.

Ralston has also been banned from owning a firearm for 10 years. (Kelowna Daily Courier)