September 30, 2020

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Wild ride in stolen fire truck 'out of character'

A Winnipeg man accused of leading police on a wild chase in a stolen fire truck has been granted bail.

Bai Koroma, 36, won his release following a hearing Thursday afternoon before Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin.

Martin ordered that Koroma be released into the custody of the Behavioural Health Foundation, where he will undergo residential treatment and counselling. Koroma will remain in custody until a bed becomes available at the treatment centre.

Koroma’s lawyer told court Koroma is still awaiting a psychiatric assessment to determine whether he can argue he was not criminally responsible for his actions.

"This is a complete aberration, completely out of character," said Kathy Bueti, who told court Koroma suffers from depression and suspected bi-polar disorder, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder arising from his youth in war-torn Sierra Leone.

Bueti said Koroma suffered a mental breakdown after the end of his marriage. The night before his arrest, Koroma had been locked out of his home, had been using drugs, and slept just two hours.

"He appears to have been in a manic state at the time of the incident," Bueti said.

Koroma was arrested Nov. 29 after a fire truck that had been left running and unattended in the 1600 block of Henderson Highway was stolen. During a 40-minute chase, the truck rear-ended one car, injuring its driver, then headed downtown where police deployed four spike belts. The truck, then riding on rims, came to a stop underneath the Midtown bridge.

The incident resulted in an estimated $110,000 in damages to the fire truck, victim's vehicle and city property.

After being taken into custody, Koroma told police he was sorry and "needed to know what it felt like … I got high and thought it would be fun."

Koroma is charged with theft of a motor vehicle, two counts of failing to stop at the scene of an accident, operation of a conveyance while impaired by alcohol or drugs, dangerous driving, possession of a weapon, fleeing from police, and driving without a valid licence.

Koroma was on bail at the time of his arrest for allegedly assaulting his ex-wife.

While the circumstances of the truck theft and chase were "exceptionally bizarre," Martin said he was satisfied Koroma would not pose a risk to the public if released.

"This does appear to be a crime of opportunity affected by drug intake and fatigue," Martin said. "As serious as this was, it doesn’t appear to be a circumstance where Mr. Koroma intended to harm anyone in any way."

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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