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Scuffle between prisoner and sheriff at Abbotsford Courthouse

The Abbotsford Courthouse was the site of a physical altercation between a prisoner and a sheriff on Thursday morning.  - File photo
The Abbotsford Courthouse was the site of a physical altercation between a prisoner and a sheriff on Thursday morning.
— image credit: File photo

A scuffle broke out this morning in an Abbotsford courtroom between a sheriff and a prisoner who was to be sentenced for assaulting a bus driver.

A chaotic scene followed in which several other sheriffs burst into the courtroom to help subdue the prisoner, and police were called in to investigate.

The incident took place at about 11:15 a.m. in courtroom 105 at the Abbotsford Courthouse during the sentencing hearing for Landy Pierre Falk, 27, who previously pleaded guilty to the June 2013 assault.

Falk was sitting in the prisoner's dock as Crown lawyer Simon Thomson was making his submissions.

A few minutes into the proceedings, the sheriff who was sitting beside the dock stood up and told the judge that Falk had muttered something at him.

The sheriff asked for the case to be adjourned for a few minutes, and the judge agreed. As is standard court procedure, the members of the gallery – including the victim, his wife and several fellow bus drivers – rose from their seats as the judge left the room.

The sheriff moved into the prisoner's dock to take Falk from the courtroom and back to a holding cell. Falk appeared to say something to the sheriff, who warned him to stop, and a tussle followed, resulting in the sheriff pinning Falk down.

The prisoner continued to struggle and repeatedly punched the sheriff as he kept Falk pinned down. The courtroom doors then burst open as several other sheriffs stormed in and ran to the prisoner's dock to help subdue Falk.

The gallery members were asked to leave the courtroom as the struggle continued. They were asked to remain at the courthouse, and provided written and audio witness statements to police.

The sheriff involved in the initial altercation was taken to hospital by ambulance with minor injuries.

The sentencing hearing was adjourned, and possible assault charges will be considered against Falk in connection to the courtroom incident.

Falk has been in custody since Jan. 10, following a series of arrests.

The assault of bus driver Dallas Warner took place June 25, 2013. Thomson told the court that, earlier that day, Warner had an encounter with Falk in which Falk was verbally abusive.

Warner recognized Falk later on when Falk and his pregnant girlfriend boarded his bus in the 2700 block of Bourquin Crescent West. When Warner asked Falk to leave the bus because of the earlier incident, Falk punched him repeatedly in the face.

Warner now has permanent hearing loss in his right ear and has been unable to return to work due to the emotional and psychological impact of the unprovoked attack, Thomson said.

Four months later, Falk was charged for uttering threats against his now former girlfriend, with whom he has a baby. In January, he was arrested for assaulting her when he choked and head-butted her, and has been in custody since.

Thomson said Falk has bipolar disorder and can become aggressive and violent when not taking his medication.

Falk has pleaded guilty to the two assaults and the uttering-threats charge. He is next set to appear in Abbotsford provincial court on April 17 to set a new date for sentencing.

The victim and colleagues who came to support Warner said they will be back in court for the conclusion of the case.

Don Duncan said bus drivers are fed up with the rise in physical and verbal attacks against them and want to see harsher penalties for offenders.

"We've all had enough. There's a breaking point for everybody … We all have the right in this  country to go to work in a safe environment," he said.

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