When the Orillia City Centre went into lockdown Wednesday morning, city council members were already in a sort of lockdown of their own.
Council was about half an hour into a closed-session meeting when there was a knock on the council chamber door and a staff member advised the politicians a man had escaped custody from the OPP detachment a block away and was hiding somewhere in the building.
The OPP’s Emergency Response Team, Canine Unit and Community Street Crime Unit descended on the city centre on Andrew Street, which also houses Lakehead University’s downtown campus, and soon arrested the man without incident.
“It was a really calm and measured reaction,” Mayor Steve Clarke said of those in the council chamber. “We wanted to make sure everybody in the building was warned, and we were assured that was the case.”
He acknowledged there “was some concern,” but added, “we were fine.”
“We just wanted to be sure everyone else was.”
After surrendering to Orillia OPP on charges of possession of stolen property, theft under $5,000, fraud under $5,000, breaking and entering, failure to comply with an undertaking and failure to attend court, Richard Asselstine, 26, of Orillia, escaped custody while being fingerprinted. He is now also charged with escaping lawful custody.
While Asselstine was attending bail court in Barrie on Wednesday, assistant Crown attorney Michael Flosman said letting Asselstine go free would be a “recipe for disaster.”
“He is a terrible risk,” said Flosman.
Flosman listed off more than 20 instances of Asselstine being charged with failure to attend court, obstruction of justice, obstruction of a peace officer and failure to comply dating back as far as 2006. The most recent instances of failure to appear and failure to comply with a probation order were in December 2017.
Flosman noted Asselstine’s rap sheet was four pages long.
“He cannot be allowed or trusted to be out where there is flexibility on release,” Flosman said.
While Asselstine is considered to be eligible for the Barrie Native Friendship Centre’s bail program, the centre has been unable to confirm his address. Therefore, he will remain in custody until his address is confirmed. Once that happens, he will be released on his own recognizance with the program.
Asselstine will be back in bail court Thursday to confirm his address, at which time he will be released.
The lockdown at city hall lasted about half an hour, said city CAO Gayle Jackson, who thanked police and city staff “for their great work in dealing with the lockdown.”
— With files from Jessica Owen