Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A 'true danger to the public'

Crown says family's ordeal latest example of ex-biker's rage

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Furious over the mother of his kids being beaten and burned in a vicious attack, a former Manitoba biker left her hospital bedside and took to the streets in hopes of finding those who hurt her.

But instead of dishing out street justice, Kevin Sylvester found himself in police custody and is facing a possible eight-year prison term after losing his cool and terrorizing a young family who had nothing to do with the assault.

Sylvester, 50, previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, possession of a restricted firearm and possession of a firearm while prohibited in connection with a bizarre incident last fall that left investigators baffled.

The former member of the now-defunct Spartans gang got into a verbal dispute with a man and woman -- total strangers -- standing outside their minivan on King Edward Street last Oct. 1, Crown attorney Mike Desautels told provincial court Judge Dale Schille Tuesday.

The victims had just put their kids, aged 21 months and nine months, in the back of the vehicle, closed the rear doors and were about to depart when Sylvester drove up in his minivan and began asking them questions.

The Crown concedes he didn't know there were kids inside the van.

"Who are you?," he asked the mom, according to the Crown. "What do you mean, who am I?," she replied, "Who are you looking for and what the f do you want?"

Sylvester responded by swearing and pulling out a loaded .45-calibre handgun. Seeing the gun prompted the victims to jump in their van and speed off. Sylvester gave chase for about four blocks and rammed their vehicle about 10 times while pointing the gun out his window, Desautels said. The dad was forced to hold his kids' heads down out of fear they'd get shot, he added. No shots were fired.

The chase ended when the mom, who was driving and calling 911 at the same time, veered off and lost him.

Police caught up to Sylvester outside a home on Maryland Street about 90 minutes later and recovered the gun, which Desautels described as a functional "Frankenstein gun" made up of various mismatched parts.

Police also found a disassembled rifle, ammunition and a Kevlar vest in the home. Sylvester was upfront with police, Schille heard. "It was me driving the van," he told them.

Desautels played in court a portion of a TV documentary in which Sylvester talks about his Spartans days and the gang's violent feud with the Hells Angels. In the show, Sylvester talks about how he "lost it" while talking with Hells Angel Rod Sweeney in 2001 and shot at him as he sat in a tow truck with his young son.

"This is part of an ongoing pattern of conduct, of, I'll say, an explosive and uncontrollable rage that he has," said Desautels, who requested an eight-year prison term in the case. "He is a danger. He is a true danger to the public."

Defence lawyer Laura Robinson asked Schille to impose no more than five years. Robinson pointed to "lengthy gaps" in his criminal record, along with a psychologist's report showing there's cause for optimism about Sylvester's future. He deals with mental and physical health concerns and is prepared to engage with supports in custody, Robinson said.

He's taken full responsibility for what he did, said Robinson. While Sylvester's background is relevant, Schille must focus on the specific facts of the current case, she urged.

Sylvester apologized, saying the family didn't deserve what happened. "They didn't have it coming," he said.

Schille will decide the case Sept. 12.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2013 A3

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