July 21, 2019

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Guilty plea in Portage Avenue bus-shelter attack

A methamphetamine addict who attacked an unsuspecting teen in a downtown bus shelter before stealing two cars and leading police on a chase through the city is expected to be sentenced next month in Winnipeg’s provincial court.

Joshua Zachary Snakeskin was intoxicated and paranoid on Jan. 23, 2018, when he suddenly unleashed violence on a University of Manitoba student who had recently arrived in Canada from India.

Snakeskin, 27, pleaded guilty in front of provincial court Judge Anne Krahn this week, and is awaiting his sentencing hearing, expected to be set near the end of April.

Snakeskin, who is from Alberta, had been released from federal prison just four days before the attack. He’d been kicked out of Portage Place shopping centre and went into a nearby bus shelter.

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A methamphetamine addict who attacked an unsuspecting teen in a downtown bus shelter before stealing two cars and leading police on a chase through the city is expected to be sentenced next month in Winnipeg’s provincial court.

Joshua Zachary Snakeskin (Facebook)

Joshua Zachary Snakeskin (Facebook)

Joshua Zachary Snakeskin was intoxicated and paranoid on Jan. 23, 2018, when he suddenly unleashed violence on a University of Manitoba student who had recently arrived in Canada from India.

Snakeskin, 27, pleaded guilty in front of provincial court Judge Anne Krahn this week, and is awaiting his sentencing hearing, expected to be set near the end of April.

Snakeskin, who is from Alberta, had been released from federal prison just four days before the attack. He’d been kicked out of Portage Place shopping centre and went into a nearby bus shelter.

"Mr. Snakeskin waited until he and (the victim) were the only individuals present in that bus shelter, at which point, entirely without provocation, he assaulted (the victim) by punching him in the face," Crown attorney Bryton Moen said in court after Snakeskin pleaded guilty March 12 to several charges, including aggravated assault, robbery and theft of a motor vehicle.

Snakeskin admitted he caused severe facial injuries and fractures when he punched the 17-year-old student, knocked him to the ground, and continued to punch and kick him five or six times before stomping on his face.

Bystanders witnessed part of the attack, which was also captured on surveillance video. Snakeskin fled the scene.

The next day, Snakeskin was in the parking lot of Seven Oaks General Hospital when he zeroed in on a vehicle pulling into the lot. He opened the vehicle's driver’s-side door, punched the man in the face, threw him to the ground and stole the car.

Snakeskin drove to Gimli, where he stole a woman’s unlocked truck and more than $100 in gas, then drove back to Winnipeg, where police caught up with him the night of Jan. 24.

The Winnipeg Police Service’s Air-1 helicopter tracked the stolen truck. Police on the ground put "stop stick" tire-deflation devices in Snakeskin’s path, but he kept driving despite his shredded tires, Moen told court.

The aftermath of the high-speed chase that ended between Sackville Street and Albany Street on Portage Avenue. (Danton Unger photo)

The aftermath of the high-speed chase that ended between Sackville Street and Albany Street on Portage Avenue. (Danton Unger photo)

Snakeskin was speeding for more than 20 minutes and 15 kilometres, and hit another car at Selkirk Avenue and Salter Street. Eventually, he got stuck in traffic on Portage Avenue, and police cruisers boxed him in.

Whether Snakeskin was high on meth at the time wasn’t made clear in court as he pleaded guilty.

His parole records show he was addicted to the street drug and had been serving time for crimes he committed while coming off a five-day meth binge. He went on the run after police tried to question him about a robbery and was later convicted in 2016 for dangerous driving, thefts and weapons offences, for which he was sentenced to more than two years in prison.

A Parole Board of Canada report issued before his release noted Snakeskin committed crime to feed his meth addiction and cautioned he didn’t have a strong release plan and would need to find ways to manage his stress and frustration.

"You were stealing to support yourself and your drug use; you were living out of a truck and couch surfing from time to time. Your impulsivity and recklessness put the lives of others at risk as you drove at high speeds to evade capture by the police," the parole board wrote of Snakeskin’s prior crimes.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

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