Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Steering clear of U.S. prison fuelled car chase

Man drove through Manitoba border crossing

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As he drove a stolen vehicle towards the Canadian border, Joshua Grandbois wasn't just trying to outrun the police, he was also fleeing the U.S. justice system -- one he claims made it impossible to get his troubled life back on track.

Grandbois flew by border guards, igniting a bizarre crime spree in southern Manitoba that included spending three days living in the bush without food or water and fighting off mosquitoes in an effort to avoid arrest.

He was eventually captured and tossed in jail.

"I'd like to apologize to all parties involved. It's been a rough road," Grandbois, 30, said during his recent sentencing hearing in Winnipeg.

The resident of Fargo, N.D., pleaded guilty to a pair of car thefts and dangerous driving and was sentenced to one year in jail, minus approximately eight months of time already served.

Once he's finished his sentence, Grandbois will eventually be deported to the U.S., where much stiffer sanctions await. He's already spent much of his adult life in prison, including a seven-year stint for trafficking meth, and is facing several arrest warrants related to the chase that brought him to Canada.

His Winnipeg lawyer, Zilla Jones, said Grandbois has learned how much friendlier the Canadian justice system is during his stay at the Winnipeg Remand Centre following his arrest.

"He's had the opportunity to talk to some inmates in Canada," she said. Grandbois was shocked to hear about things like addictions treatment behind bars, conditional sentences and probation -- none of which he's had the privilege of receiving in the U.S.

"It's just always been hard time," said Jones.

Grandbois' latest legal troubles began Aug. 31, 2013, when police in North Dakota were chasing him as he was behind the wheel of a stolen Chevy Lumina. Grandbois refused to stop, eventually blowing through a border crossing south of Killarney.

RCMP were called in to assist but couldn't find the fugitive. Later that afternoon, someone called 911 from near Souris to report their Ford F-150 had just been stolen by a man who dumped a Lumina with North Dakota plates.

Less than an hour later, Portage la Prairie RCMP spotted the truck headed east on the Trans-Canada Highway and tried to pull it over. Grandbois sped away, eventually bolting from the vehicle.

Another report of a stolen truck was made a short time later, near St. François Xavier. In that case, Grandbois was confronted by the owner, who grabbed him and tried to stop him from driving off his property.

The man eventually backed off. Grandbois then reversed, losing control of the truck, speeding over the man's yard and knocking over two large oak trees before driving away in the damaged vehicle.

"It was clearly a dangerous situation. This is an individual who put the public at great risk," said Crown attorney Craig Savage.

Grandbois then spent three long days and nights hiding in the bush near Headingley. He used the truck as shelter, unable to drive it any longer because the tires had been shredded in his escape.

"It started hitting him that he had no family, no friends here, what was he going to do?" his lawyer told court. "But he was desperate, and he didn't want to go back into custody."

Grandbois was arrested after someone spotted him and called police.

"I know it was stupid. It seemed like my only option at the time," he told police.

Most of Grandbois' criminal record stems from his longtime drug addiction. The vast majority of his offences relate to property crime.

"This appears to be completely reckless and selfish behaviour," provincial court Judge Fred Sandhu said before handing down his sentence.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2014 A5

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