Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Angry relative disrupts court in sentencing for hit and run

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A sentencing hearing for the driver responsible for a hit and run that killed Reginald "Reggie" Blackbird on Christmas Eve was briefly disrupted Monday by an outburst from a relative of the victim.

"Sick -- my uncle's gone," the woman angrily said Monday before storming out of Court of Queen's Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg's courtroom.

The judge was in the middle of handing Christopher Peebles a five-month jail sentence and a year-long driving ban for leaving a Dec. 24, 2010, accident scene on Fife Street where Blackbird was left for dead in the roadway.

Peebles, 46, pleaded guilty in December 2012 to a charge of failure to remain at the scene of an accident causing death.

The more serious charge of criminal negligence causing death was dismissed by the judge presiding over his preliminary hearing in March 2012.

Blackbird, 66, died either immediately or shortly after Peebles hit him and drove away around at 5:45 p.m.

Blackbird had just parked his car and was carrying a bag of groceries to his daughter's home for a holiday dinner when he was struck. Blackbird was thrown into the air, onto the car's hood and windshield and then thrown to the ground.

Peebles initially stopped, but then backed up and drove off on a route through the neighbourhood and back onto Fife, where he checked the accident scene and then continued to drive on.

He abandoned his heavily damaged car a few blocks away and was arrested by police at his sister's house on Christmas Day.

Police found he still had windshield glass in his hair when he was arrested, Greenberg said. There was no indication Peebles was impaired, speeding or otherwise driving poorly, she said.

"While there is no doubt abandoning a victim in the street is morally repugnant, what distinguishes this case... is that there is no suggestion that Mr. Peebles's manner of driving at the time of the accident was either criminal or careless," Greenberg said. "This was a true accident -- not the result of reckless driving."

Greenberg said the fact the accident happened on Christmas Eve painted a "particularly tragic picture."

"I believe that it is a picture that still haunts Mr. Peebles," she said.

There was some suggestion Peebles was paying attention to a woman and child on the street removing gifts from their car and he failed to see Blackbird in time.

Other than a 1986 conviction for refusing a breath demand, Peebles has no other driving-related convictions on his criminal or Highway Traffic Act record, Greenberg said. He's been out of trouble with the law for more than a decade, she said, noting his fear was being returned to jail would put him back into contact with "negative peers" he's gone to lengths to avoid.

"Mr. Peebles describes the accident as the worst moment of his life... (he) struggles every day with what he did," she said.

Prosecutors sought a year in jail and a three-year driving prohibition. Defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk asked the court for a 90-day sentence to be served intermittently on weekends.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2013 A5

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