Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

A man who fatally shot another man in view of restaurant patrons and pedestrians strolling the seawall got life with no parole for 20 years.

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Dozens of people were enjoying a meal at an upscale Vancouver restaurant while others strolled the nearby seawall.

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Their peaceful evening was shattered when a man was fatally shot in full view of Cardero’s Restaurant and the walkway that runs along the city’s Coal Harbor neighborhood.

On Tuesday, the man accused in the brazen slaying entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 20 years.

Francois Joseph Gauthier, 53, was initially charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Harpreet Dhaliwal, 31, but pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of second-degree murder.

Court heard that on the night of April 17, 2021, Gauthier used a semi-automatic handgun with a silencer to shoot Dhaliwal multiple times, including two bullets to the back of the head.

The motive for the slaying was not disclosed, but court heard that a considerable amount of planning had gone into the murder. Dhaliwal did not have a criminal record but he was believed to be involved in a gang lifestyle, and more specifically believed to have ties to the Brothers Keepers gang.

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“As an execution-style killing, this offense was a particularly serious one with many aggravating features,” BC Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said as she pronounced sentence Tuesday.

“Gun crimes are of high concern in the community, and this one took place in a public location that could be expected to be busy with people of all ages, enjoying life as they expect and are entitled to do,” the judge said.

Gauthier, who was born in Quebec but had been living in South America, had arrived in Vancouver in January 2021, and a few months later rented an Airbnb apartment in the city.

The killer had been provided information on the victim’s whereabouts. After he confronted Dhaliwal outside the restaurant and shot him 10 times, he dropped the firearm and fled.

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He was pursued by the victim’s brother and another man. The two men caught Gauthier and stabbed him multiple times, then rushed back to Dhaliwal’s body.

Gauthier was badly injured but was able to walk to a courtyard near Broughton Street and West Pender before collapsing. No charges have been laid in the stabbing of Gauthier.

Police and paramedics arrived at the scene, but despite attempts to revive him, Dhaliwal was pronounced dead.

In Gauthier’s apartment, police found a small arsenal of firearms and ammunition. There was other evidence of planning, including GPS tracking devices, four BC license plates, four cellphones, and a silicone-style full face mask.

Gauthier had a dated but serious criminal record, including offenses of violence and convictions in the United States, including a conviction in a cocaine conspiracy.

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In imposing sentence, the judge accepted a joint submission from Crown counsel Mike Barrenger and defense counsel Michael Shapray.

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no parole eligibility of between 10 and 25 years. The seriousness of the circumstances warranted a sentence at the higher end of parole ineligibility, the judge found.

Barrenger told the court that numerous attempts had been made to get victim impact statements from Dhaliwal’s family, but the family had declined to do so.

Shapray told the court that he adopted the submissions of the Crown and emphasized that his client had entered his guilty plea at a very early stage in the proceedings.

He noted that the sentence would take Gauthier to the latter stages of his adult life. Gauthier, who declined to provide a statement in court, sat quietly in the prisoner’s dock during the proceedings.

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