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Vanderhoof shooter sentenced for assaulting Prince George taxi driver

Paul Nicholas Russell committed offence eight days before opening fire on RCMP detachment
The main entrance to the Prince George courthouse. Citizen file photo

A loose end has been tied up for the man recently sentenced for opening fire on the Vanderhoof RCMP detachment.

On November 17, 2021, eight days before Paul Nicholas Russell, 38, committed the act for which he is now serving a 10-year sentence, he assaulted a taxi driver in Prince George, the court heard Wednesday.

According to circumstances presented during a hearing in Prince George Provincial Court, shortly before  6 p.m., the driver dropped Russell off at a hotel in the city.

Russell went into the hotel without paying the fare and the driver followed and demanded that Russell pay up.

Instead, Russell went into a room and came back out with a spray bottle and sprayed the driver in the face with toilet cleaner, then threw the bottle at him, hitting him in the forehead.

Russell then went to the front desk and attempted to book a room. An attendant at the hotel in turn called the RCMP and Russell was arrested. Court records indicate he was released the same day.

Unable to see clearly, and suffering pain, itchiness and discharge from his eyes, the driver missed four days of work.

Similar to what was said during the trial and sentencing for Russell for the Nov. 25, 2021, incident at the Vanderhoof RCMP detachment, the court was told Wednesday that Russell was struggling with mental health troubles at the time.

He was displaying strange and delusional behaviour, but with pandemic-related restrictions in effect, Russell was also having trouble getting help and although he had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication, he had also been consuming alcohol as a way to self-medicate.

Now in custody, Russell has received the help he has needed and has since stabilized, the court heard.

For the assault, Russell was sentenced to a day in jail and ordered to pay $606.70 in restitution for the driver's four days of lost work and the cost of the fare.

Russell, who had pleaded guilty to the charge, apologized for his behaviour and promised to pay the restitution as soon as he gets out.

"I wasn't in a right mind," Russell said.

Less credit for time served, Russell has roughly seven years left to serve on the sentence issued earlier this month for firing off at least 19 rounds of .30-calibre ammunition at the detachment, causing those inside to fear for their lives as well as sparking a community-wide lockdown and a massive police response.