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Man who nearly killed himself in robbery spree gets 12-year sentence

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An Ontario man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime spree he undertook in Winnipeg while he was en route to a new job in British Columbia.

Stephane Martin Bissonnette, 29, pleaded guilty to several offences Monday including a 7-Eleven heist in which he nearly killed himself, three bank robberies, a car theft and subsequent high-speed chase and a daring escape from the Health Sciences Centre.

"This is quite an unusual story, not the typical facts," said provincial court Judge John Guy. He also encouraged Bissonnette to perhaps consider a "career change" after hearing the sloppy details of his crimes.

Bissonnette worked in construction and had lined up a new job in Vancouver, court was told. He was headed west on a Greyhound bus last October when he made a brief stop in Winnipeg.

Defence lawyer Martin Glazer said his client met a few new friends who introduced him to crack cocaine. He got hooked and the stage was set for a dramatic downward spiral.

Bissonnette robbed a Royal Bank on McPhillips Street in October, getting caught on video in the process.

The next day he smashed his way into the 4Play Sports Bar on Portage Avenue, cutting himself in the process and leaving a trail of blood behind. Police caught him the next day when he was spotted behind the wheel of a car that had just been stolen from the Oakbank area, then crashed into a median following a brief chase.

Bissonnette gave police a fake name of Danny Briere and was released on bail because he had not yet been linked to the bank robbery and break-in.

He immediately returned to his criminal ways, breaking into a downtown Winnipeg law office and leaving more DNA behind after slicing his arm on a piece of glass.

Bissonnette then broke into a home in late October, stealing jewelry and electronics but also leaving behind a forensic calling card after drinking out of a bottle of pop.

On Oct. 28, Bissonnette went to the 7-Eleven store on Ellice Avenue where he stole cash and cigarettes – then shot himself in the groin while trying to flee. He flagged down police and was rushed to hospital in critical condition, where he remained for several months following life-saving surgery.

This past Jan. 22, Bissonnette was back in the news when he somehow escaped from a 3rd-floor window at the Health Sciences Centre while guards were posted outside his room.

Bissonnette then held up a pair of Bank of Montreal branches on Jan. 26 – in the first case he was sprayed with red dye from an exploding pack of money, and in the second one he was caught on video surveillance.

Bissonnette was re-arrested later that day and has been in custody since. Glazer told court Monday his client was desperate for cash to feed his drug addiction and attempt to continue his journey to B.C.

"This was definitely not the work of a professional criminal. It’s quite obvious he wasn’t very good at what he was doing," said Glazer.

Bissonnette has a previous criminal history in Quebec and B.C. including robbery convictions, court was told. He was given a 12-year sentence under a joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers, which the judge accepted.

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