Sarnia man goes to prison for arson and wild chase

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Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A Sarnia man will spend more than four years in jail after firing a shotgun at passersby and police .

Brandon Williams, 26, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison by Justice Anne McFadyen in Sarnia court recently. He plead guilty to a lengthy list of firearms charges stemming from the Sept. 2019 incident.

The chase occurred while Williams was out on bail for committing arson in April at a Kathleen Ave. apartment block. He had lit a unit he was staying in on fire before fleeing the scene. Nobody was hurt, but damage to the building was more than $300,000.

On the day of the chase Williams was walking along the train tracks at the Sarnia Imperial Oil refinery dressed in all black with a shirt wrapped around his face. When a worker went to ask Williams what he was doing he said he was going to work and proceeded to Christina St.

More workers became concerned and thought they saw Williams carrying a gun underneath his clothes. 

Police were called for a suspicious person. When an officer arrived Williams pulled out the gun – a sawed off bolt action rifle – and pointed it at the officer. Williams started running and pointed the gun at a woman cutting the grass at Imperial Oil. She was able to escape on her riding mower. 

Williams ran into the intersection of Christina and Confederation streets and fired the rifle into the air. This caused vehicles in the intersection to scatter. Several officers had now arrived on the scene. 

Officers heard screams from a nearby apartment. A woman said a man had busted into her unit and told her if she alerted the cops he’d ‘smash her out’. Police entered the unit and found Williams lying on the floor in the bedroom. He was arrested, bringing an end to the chaotic scene. 

Defense lawyer Michael Quigley said this behavior was not like his client. Williams has struggled with addictions to opiates and crystal meth, but is looking to put such criminal activity behind him, says Quigley.

Williams made a brief statement saying he’s hoping to move on. “I am sorry. It’s been a long journey so far and it’s not over yet. I know it can be beneficial in the end.” 

Quigley and Crown attorney David Rows agreed on a joint submission where Williams received 3.5 years for the September matters and 1 year for the arson. They differed on the matter of restitution for the apartment arson. “Mr. Williams has a significant uphill battle to make changes and new strides in his life to not only deal with overcoming addictions but to get on with a career and establish himself,” Quigley says. “If he has the kind of restitution order the Crown is suggesting hanging over his head it would be an extreme barrier for him to go forward in his life.” 

McFadyen agreed with the defense, although she said Williams may still be subject to a civil trial by the property owners. With time served Williams will spend the next three years and two months in jail. He will have a lifetime weapons ban and must submit a DNA sample. 

“These are very serious matters with a dramatic impact on the victims involved, not only psychologically but as well monetarily,” McFadyen says. “If you do dedicate yourself to sobriety and employment you’ll be able to become a very positive member of our community.”