North Vancouver man pleads guilty to lighting homeless friend on fire

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A North Vancouver man who set his homeless friend on fire with camping fuel, causing third-degree burns to the man’s face and body, has been sentenced to two years in jail, on top of a year already served while in custody, after pleading guilty to aggravated assault.

According to the North Shore News, Judge William Rodgers handed the sentence to 36-year-old Brian Kenneth Pert in provincial court on Monday. Pert was originally charged with the attempted murder of Russell Rozel, but pleaded guilty to the less serious charge of aggravated assault after a preliminary hearing.

The assault took place on August 4, 2012, when Pert and Rozel had a disagreement after the two men had been drinking. Pert went to a piece of land, known as the “grassy knoll”, between the highway and the Holiday Inn in North Vancouver where Rozel had been camping out, and the two men got into an altercation. Rozel suffered serious injuries, including painful scarring and partial loss of vision in one eye, as a result of the attack.

In court, Michael Smith – a friend of both Pert and Rozel, who was there at the time of the attack – said he noticed Pert pouring some kind of liquid on Rozel. That’s when Rozel went up in flames.

Smith said he ran to help Rozel as fast as he could by rolling him on the dry grass in an attempt to put the fire out. People driving by noticed the incident and also ran over to help, bringing bags of ice from the nearby Holiday Inn.

Rozel was rushed to Vancouver General Hospital, where he spent seven weeks in the burn unit.

In a report done for the court, a psychiatrist said Pert was under the influence of both alcohol and crack cocaine on the day he went to Rozel’s camp with gas and a lighter. The report also noted that Pert believed Rozel owed him money.

Pert’s defence lawyer Greg Delbigio says Pert isn’t homeless and has a supportive family, but has dealt with mental illness in the past. He urged the judge to consider a more lenient sentence in light of Pert’s mental health problems but Rodgers rejected that, indicating the psychiatrist’s report suggested drug and alcohol abuse – rather than a psychotic disorder – were the main causes behind Pert’s attack.

In addition to the jail term, Pert has been put on two years’ probation, including orders to take counseling. He’s also been ordered to stay away from Rozel, Smith and the North Vancouver bottle depot, as well as to not to go outside his residence if he’s been drinking.

Featured Image: Arrested man handcuffed via Shutterstock

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Jeff Clowers is a former Editorial Intern. He is a BCIT Journalism grad and avid sports fan - Go Eagles! Covering all the happenings of the Greater Vancouver area.
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