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While search for Mayor’s Chain of Office continues, city hall burglar gets sentenced for Sept. 12 break-in

The unique Mayor’s Chain was stolen from Kamloops City Hall on Sept. 10, two days before another break-in occurred
Mayor's Chain of Office
The Mayor's Chain of Office was stolen from Kamloops City Hall on Sept. 10, 2021.

A homeless man who was caught walking out of Kamloops City Hall with a load of electronics must spend another 78 days in jail, a provincial court judge has ruled.

In court on Thursday, Nov. 18, Justin Jason Colpitts, 34, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in connection with a Sept. 12 burglary and theft he committed at city hall, downtown at Victoria Street West and First Avenue.

Court heard a municipal employee spotted someone she did not recognize leaving the building that evening with a duffle bag and two laptop bags. She called an IT manager to ask if there were any contractors in the building and when told there wasn’t, she called police and followed the man.

Kamloops RCMP responded at about 6:30 p.m., and the employee told police the man had gone behind the Plaza Hotel — a few blocks away at Victoria Street and Fourth Avenue — where they found and arrested a man with bags who identified himself as Justin Colpitts.

The bags contained six laptops, a pink iPad, a docking station, a black panel monitor, a mouse, miscellaneous cables and business cards from city hall.

Crown prosecutor Monica Fras said police conducted a perimeter check of city hall and found no signs of forced entry, but did notice several exterior doors were easy to open with a screwdriver or similar object. A city employee also stated the building’s security camera system had been malfunctioning that day.

Fras noted that Colpitts’ lengthy criminal record, which totals 75 offences, including 31 for property crimes.

“It is aggravating that Mr. Colpitts’ behaviour is quite brazen, at least with respect to the offence with regards to city hall,” Fras said.

Colpitts also pleaded guilty to possessing a stolen vehicle in Chase on Aug. 26. At about 1:30 a.m. on that day, an Adams Lake Indian Band security guard reported a suspicious truck in a band parking lot. Inside the truck was a sleeping Colpitts. When awakened by the security guard, Colpitts drove off. Police determined the truck was stolen from Kamloops and, upon finding the vehicle parked at a nearby baseball diamond, arrested Colpitts following a 30-second foot chase.

Defence counsel Jay Michi said Colpitts has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but understands his wrongdoing.

Michi said his client is taking classes from prison to get his high school diploma while incarcerated and is taking his schizophrenia medication and suboxone for his drug addiction.

Michi said Colpitts hopes to find a job, but doesn’t have housing lined up for when he is released from jail.

“In short, he describes himself as feeling stable at KRCC [Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre] and that’s positive,” Michi said.

Court heard Colpitts grew up in foster care, where he was physically and sexually abused by other kids. Both his parents died when he was in his teens — his mother, who was a residential school survivor in Kamloops, when he was 17 and his non-Indigenous father when he was 12.

“He doesn’t know any of his grandparents. He is an only child, so what that tells us its Mr. Colpitts is someone who is very isolated in the community,” Michi said.

Fras and Michi issued a joint submission, which judge Stella Frame accepted, handing Colpitts 120 days in jail for possessing stolen property over $5,000 and 180 days for the break-in to city hall, each with one-year probation sentences that will run concurrently.

When factoring in the 1.5 days’ credit for each day spent in pre-trial custody, Colpitts was credited with 102 days in jail, leaving 78 days to serve.

As part of his probation, Colpitts must complete drug and psychological treatment, cannot possess break-in tools, must stay 100 metres away from the person who owns the stolen truck and is barred from being within 100 metres of city hall.

As Colpitts is homeless and may need to access shelters located on Victoria Street West, which are near city hall, Frame is permitting Colpitts to pass by the building on his way to those facilities.

Appearing via video from the KRCC, Colpitts apologized to the City of Kamloops.

“Sorry for my actions,” he said.

Mayoral chain still missing

While one break-in to city hall in September has been resolved, another case remains a mystery.

While Colpitts, 34, has been sentenced for the Sep. 12 burglary, a break-in at city hall two days earlier, on Sept. 10, remains unsolved.

Kamloops RCMP was notified of a break and enter at city hall that day, during which the Mayor’s Chain of Office was stolen. The chain is worn by the mayor at various formal events.

As of Nov. 18, there are no new developments in the case, nor charges laid, and the chain remains missing.

While the file is separate from the Sept. 12 break-in, RCMP Const. Crystal Evelyn told KTW that “whether the incidents are related is something that will be looked at as part of the investigation.”

“The Mayor’s Chain of Office is unique and a significant piece of Kamloops history,” RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky said in a release following the theft. “We are asking residents to please be on the lookout for the chain. We would appreciate any help the public can provide in assisting with its safe return.”

KTW is awaiting a return call from Mayor Ken Christian for comment.