Drunk driver who killed 73 year old grandfather handed 5 year sentence

by Paige Parsons

An Edmonton man who admitted he was driving drunk when he fatally struck a 73 year old pedestrian was handed a 5 year prison sentence Monday.

Erick Edgardo Garcia, 38, pleaded guilty in October to impaired driving causing a death in connection with a June 20, 2016, collision that killed Ajaib Singh Grewal.

Crown prosecutor Mark Van Manen and Garcia's defence lawyer, Rod Gregory, made a joint sentencing submission, which provincial court Judge Janet Dixon accepted.

Garcia, who has been in custody since his arrest and did not seek bail, will receive credit for time served. He has four years and 90 days left to his sentence, and will be prohibited from driving for five years after his release. Dixon also ordered Garcia to provide a DNA sample for a federal database.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Garcia was speeding when his Jeep went through a 4-way stop near 48 Street and Mill Woods Road South about 4 p.m., and made no attempt to brake. Grewal was walking in a marked crosswalk.

The force of the impact threw Grewal 30 metres. He was declared dead at the scene by emergency responders.

After the collision, Garcia pulled over briefly, then drove away. He parked nearby, and was arrested a short time later. He was so drunk he had difficulty standing, and became disgruntled with police, calling an officer a homophobic slur, according to the agreed statement of facts.

However, according to a pre-sentencing report cited by both the Crown and defence, Garcia did not seek bail and has sought counselling for his addiction while in custody.

The report found Garcia had a difficult childhood. He developed alcoholism that went untreated as an adult.

Grewal, a father of three and grandfather to seven, was retired, but very active as a community volunteer. Around the time of his death, he'd been helping with relief efforts following the Fort McMurray wildfire evacuation, taking food to Northlands where evacuees were being housed.

The benches in the court gallery were filled: half with Grewal's family, the other with Garcia's.

Three victim impact statements from Grewal's family were read aloud to the court by Van Manen.

"Never in a million years do you think an adult with children of his own will get in a car and drive drunk," wrote one of Grewal's granddaughters in a statement on behalf of all the grandchildren.

A statement by Garcia's family was also read out in court by Gregory, expressing their sympathy to Grewal's family.

"Your intimate suffering is something we will never know," the statement read. "We fully realize that as a result of Erick's action, a cherished life was lost."

Before being sentenced, Garcia turned to face Grewal's family to apologize.

"I can't imagine the pain and sorrow my actions have caused you," he told them.

Garcia, who is married and has three children, also apologized to his own family.

"I'm sorry I can't be there to provide for you," he said as his several of his family members wept.

Speaking outside court afterwards, Grewal's daughter, Harinder Jouhal, said while the Garcia family's statement was "nice," the sentence doesn't feel like an adequate punishment for taking her father's life.

"It's still very devastating, nothing is going to bring him back," Jouhal said as she wiped away tears.

Garcia was also charged with dangerous driving causing death and criminal hit-and-run causing death, but those charges were withdrawn after the sentencing.