WESTLOCK – A 30-year-old Rochester man who led police on a chase throughout Westlock County this past April and had to be tased to be removed from the truck he had stolen, will spend close to three years in a federal penitentiary.
Appearing in Westlock Provincial May 25 via CCTV from the Edmonton Remand Centre, Andrew Dwayne Lysohirka pleaded guilty to two counts of flight from a peace officer and operating a motor vehicle while prohibited, plus single charges of possession of stolen property over $5,000 and possession of ammunition while prohibited and received a 1,020-day prison sentence from Judge Michèle Collinson — in custody since April 20, Lysohirka was given credit for 53 days on an “enhanced” 1.5-to-one credit.
“There’s 67 entries on your record. Nine of those relate to failing to comply to court orders, two are for obstructing a peace officer and 20 relate to property and then there are three flights (from police) plus six driving while disqualified and one dangerous driving in there. The previous sentences of jail and probation have not been effective in deterring your behaviour so something more is needed,” said Judge Collinson, who also imposed a three-year driving ban when he’s released, plus a lifetime weapons prohibition. “Whether it’s going to deter you or not remains to be seen, but the public deserves to be protected from you because your actions are dangerous.”
Fifteen additional charges were withdrawn, including four additional counts of flight from a peace officer, two counts each of possession of stolen property over $5,000, dangerous operation of motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while prohibited. Other charges also withdrawn by Crown prosecutor Brett Grierson included resisting arrest, assaulting a peace officer, driving with no insurance, theft under $5,000 and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Grierson had asked for a “steep” 36-month jail sentence, that included a three-driving ban and lifetime weapons prohibition, noting Lysohirka’s “long and related” record for property and driving offences that included a recent 19-month jail sentence.
“This is a repeated pattern and certainly not the first time this accused has committed these crimes. This is a reasonable step up,” said Grierson.
Defence lawyer Richard Forbes called for a 30-month sentence, noting both of Lysohirka’s parents died due to drugs before he was 14 years old. Forbes also said Lysohirka is estranged from most of his family, aside from his sister, and wants to reconnect with his two children when released.
“Very early on he was introduced to trauma and loss and to drug use … which has plagued him throughout his youth and adult life. Methamphetamine and alcohol have been troublesome substances to him,” said Forbes.
Lysohirka said he’s looking forward to federal time, which is imposed on sentences over two years, and the programs available at federal penitentiaries — he asked to serve his time at the Bowden Institution. He also said he believes parole will be helpful versus probation, as if he violates parole he’ll immediately be sent back to jail. His 1,020-day sentence means he’s not slated to be released until March 10, 2025.
“Hopefully I’m going to do my best not to see you for a very long time,” he told Judge Collinson. “I just want to get this over with.”
Court heard that on March 23, 2022, Westlock RCMP received a report of a potential stolen vehicle sighting in Fawcett. During a patrol at around 4:15 a.m., police saw a white Ford Flex that had been pinched from Westlock the previous day.
The officer called for backup and a second officer attended the scene — when police turned on their emergency lights, the headlights of the Flex came on. Police attempted to box in the Flex, but it was able to escape the scene and they did not pursue — Lysohirka was spotted by police behind the wheel.
Meanwhile, a previous RCMP release stated that around 11:30 a.m., April 20, local RCMP, with the assistance of the Eastern Alberta Crime Reduction Unit (EACRU) and Barrhead detachment, were trying locate Lysohirka who was wanted on numerous arrest warrants in Westlock and Barrhead.
Police say Lysohirka was first located in a stolen GMC pickup truck in Fawcett, but when they attempted to stop him, he fled at a high rate of speed.
Thanks largely to tips received from the public following an online post via the Westlock and Area Crime Coalition (WACC), Westlock and Barrhead members, along with the Redwater RCMP, RCMP Police Dog Service and the EACRU located the vehicle in the southeast area of the county around 2:30 p.m. — despite flattening at least one tire during an attempted stop, the driver continued to flee.
RCMP say the pursuit continued north on various range and township roads through to the Hamlet of Nestow and finally came to an end after a “police vehicle made contact with the stolen vehicle” on Range Road 245 off of Highway 2. Due to at least three spike belts being deployed and the damage they had caused to the truck’s tires, Grierson said the 20-minute-plus chase “never got much faster than 100 km/h and eventually dipped to 30 to 40 km/h.”
“He did not comply with police demands to exit the vehicle or keep his hands where they could be seen. In order to remove him, a CEW (conducted energy weapon) was deployed and following a brief struggle the accused was placed in handcuffs and transported to the Westlock RCMP Detachment,” Grierson added.
During a search of the vehicle, police found shotgun ammunition — Lysohirka was on a lifetime firearms/ammunition ban and was also barred from driving.
Westlock RCMP Staff Sgt. Al Baird said previously this was the first time they’ve used WACC to catch a suspect and it worked to perfection. The April 20 WACC post listed the make, model and colour of the stolen truck, as well as the licence plate number and advised the public not to approach as the suspect was believed “to be armed and dangerous.”
“It worked very well and it helped us out tremendously. It’s a good feather in the cap for the crime coalition,” said Baird April 21. “We’ve used it for a few collisions, but this is the first time it’s been used to find someone. People paid attention and it worked like it was supposed to.”