Harrowing North Van home invasion leads to jail time

Three men have been sentenced to five years in jail for a terrifying armed home invasion that took place in North Vancouver in March of 2018.

Two of the men were sentenced after pleading guilty in North Vancouver provincial court to offences including robbery with a prohibited firearm, unlawful confinement and having their faces masked with intent to commit a crime. The third man pleaded guilty to break and enter, unlawful confinement and having his face masked.

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The men have all been in custody since their arrest over a year ago and will serve between two and four additional years in jail, after receiving credit for time served.

“These were extremely serious offences,” Judge Steven Merrick told two of the men – Gatluak James of Surrey, 22, and Baboya Tutlam of Burnaby, 21 – while handing down their sentence. “You have done damage to this family which regrettably I don’t think they’ll ever be able to recover from,” said the judge.

According to an agreed statement of facts entered by Crown prosecutor Lindsay Herron during the two men’s sentencing hearing, the trio targeted a home in North Vancouver where residents of the house had a legal licence to grow and store marijuana for medical purposes.

On March 29, 2018, three people were at home around 6:30 p.m. when the back door was thrown open and three men wearing bandanas and carrying handguns walked into the house.

One of the men approached the female resident, demanding to know: “Where is the money?” and “Where are the real drugs?” according to the statement of facts.

When the woman told them there were no drugs other than marijuana, the man entered the bedroom and pointed a gun at her husband, demanding money, “real drugs” and the location of a safe.

Eventually the couple and their adult son were told to sit on the bed while the intruders stood around them with guns, one of them stating “Don’t do anything stupid and your family won’t be hurt,” the court heard.

The husband then took $4,900 from a drawer and gave it to the intruders, who then insisted on being taken to the lower floor of the home.

While that was happening, however, the intruders spotted a police officer who had been dispatched to the neighbourhood for a possible break-in. Two of them took off running, chased by the officer.

One of the men was caught and arrested. But the second man escaped, and later returned to the house.

Three other police officers went to the house, but when nobody answered their calls they left. Meanwhile the family remained inside, with two of the men – James and Tutlam – pointing guns at them.

Eventually the police went back to the house to retrieve a notebook lost in the foot chase and became concerned that something serious was still happening at the house. James and Tutlam were eventually arrested in the driveway.

Images captured on the home’s video surveillance system showed all three accused entering and exiting the house at various points during the home invasion, according to the statement of facts.

Police recovered two guns that James and Tutlam had hidden under a mattress in the house. They included a Taurus semi-automatic pistol with an extra-large magazine and a Colt semi-automatic pistol with a silencer and serial number removed. “Both guns were loaded and the Colt pistol had a round in the chamber,” according to the statement of facts.

In sentencing James and Tutlam, Merrick referred to the “egregious” nature of the offences, which he said was best captured in the victim impact statements where the woman wrote she would “never forget what it feels like to have a gun pointed at her face.”

“I don’t think anybody can really imagine how horrific that is,” said the judge. “To have a gun pointed at you, not knowing what the intention is, not only not knowing if you are going to be killed but not knowing if you are going to watch your loved ones be killed.”

Both James and Tutlam were sentenced in February, but the details of the case remained under a publication ban until the third man was sentenced July 5.

That man, a Burnaby resident, was 18 at the time he committed the home invasion, but was 17 when he committed other serious offences in Surrey, which Merrick also sentenced him for.

Court heard that the youth was involved in dealing firearms linked to ongoing gang conflict in the Lower Mainland, and had supplied three high-powered semiautomatic rifles ready for immediate use to a middleman in July of 2017.

The man received a four-year sentence for his role as an adult in the home invasion, plus a consecutive one-year sentence for the gun trafficking offences.

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