As he chopped at the door of a Yellowknife apartment with an axe, Lance Wayne Kristensen screamed he would kill the person inside if they touched his mother again, a court heard.
The March 24 incident caused residents of the Sunridge Place building to flee their homes or huddle in stairwells. Police flew a specialist response team from Whitehorse as they negotiated with the inebriated suspect for almost seven hours.
Once warrants were obtained, officers gained entry to Kristensen’s third-floor apartment and arrested the 29-year-old without incident. He told the court on Thursday he had fallen asleep after drinking hard liquor.
The door-smashing incident was the culmination of friction between Kristensen and a person he identified as a well-known crack cocaine dealer.
There had been earlier conflicts between the pair and Kristensen told court he was fingered as “a rat” after he told police about the drug dealing.
Kristensen said his mother had discovered strangers in his suite on March 24, the day he was supposed to return home after his two-week shift at Gahcho Kué mine. There had been a confrontation. His mother subsequently laid charges against one of the men, said Kristensen.
“The reason why I went down [with an axe] was to protect my mother and also to protect myself,” Kristensen said, noting his windshield had recently been smashed and machete slashes made in his door.
“When I got back into town, I had made a decision to go and try to scare [the alleged drug dealer]. I did this to deter him from messing with me any further as police cannot be in the hallways … to protect me from everyone.
“I never intended to kill or even harm [the other man]. I did it out of fear for my safety from [the man], other dealers and addicts.
“I am the victim in this whole situation.”
Emotions ‘got the best of him’
Kristensen said he has lost his job and his apartment, and will be homeless when released from jail.
A man matching the description given by Kristensen does face drug charges from April – that case is set for trial at a later date. Cabin Radio is not identifying the man as the allegations made by Kristensen have not been tested in court.
Crown prosecutor Andreas Kuntz said the axe attack “is a frightening offence” but acknowledged it appeared to be out of character for Kristensen.
“He had the good sense earlier that day and sought police assistance to clear his apartment and potentially defuse a confrontation he suspected might be taking place,” said Kuntz.
“For some reason though, just a few hours after showing sensible behaviour, Mr Kristensen was engaged in an incident which terrorized not just the individuals that were inside [the second-floor] apartment, the door he was hacking down, but also the tenants in the building who heard his screams and saw him with axe in hand.”
Kuntz described Kristensen as strong, “in his prime,” and a man who could be capable of carrying out his threats.
“At the moment when he was committing the act, this was an individual who was to be feared,” he said.
Defence lawyer Jay Bran said his client “unfortunately let his emotions and his protective nature for his mother get the best of him.”
What happened that night
The details of what happened on March 24 at Sunridge Place are as follows.
At 10:30am, Kristensen’s mother went to the RCMP, telling officers her son was returning from his work at the mine and she was concerned there could be uninvited people inside her son’s apartment. Police went the building and the unit was empty.
Later that day, Kristensen also contacted police and explained he had been having problems with a man in the building and that people could be in his apartment, as a master key was thought to be available to some tenants.
Police returned to the apartment and again found it empty.
Around 5:10pm, the RCMP dispatch line received numerous complaints from residents inside the apartment block “about an individual [uttering] threats and hacking at a door with an axe” on the second floor.
A few minutes later, police arrived and were met by residents who were taking cover outside or inside in stairwells. Police saw “wood chips all over the floor and a large hole in the door of number 225,” said Kuntz.
A tenant showed police a video of a man aggressively hacking on the door. An officer recognized him from his complaint earlier in the day.
A large number of officers knocked on Kristensen’s door for several minutes, “pleading with the occupant inside to come out,” said Kuntz.
At 5:38pm, a man eventually did come to the door, but didn’t open it. He only stating his name was “Lance,” with officers noting his speech was slurred.
They informed him through the door that he was under arrest for mischief and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
Police then made a request for a warrant and the supervisor decided to call in the emergency response team, which arrived at 7:15pm, as did the crisis negotiation team.
An officer had been speaking with Kristensen through the doorway but that communication deteriorated as the suspect’s speech “became slurred and the communication with the officer became incoherent,” said Kuntz.
Phone calls and text messages went unanswered. Kristensen’s mother also could not be located.
At 11:20pm, two warrants were authorized. Just after midnight, officers entered Kristensen’s apartment and arrested him without incident.
Police had tossed in two “flash bangs,” which Kristensen said woke him up.
An axe was found inside the apartment.
Sentenced to 90 days
Two short videos were accepted as evidence, both taken by a second-floor tenant at the opposite end of the hallway. They showed Kristensen taking overhead swings into a door, as he yelled obscenities while threatening the life of the person inside.
“You put your hands on my mother? I’ll [expletive] kill you!” Kristensen can be heard saying. He can be heard yelling two different names.
In the second video, Kristensen can be seen looking for something amid the wood chips, which the court later learned was his partial denture.
Kristensen was released on bail with conditions on March 26. On March 29, he was re-arrested on charges of impaired driving. He was released again on April 3.
A month later, he was charged with possessing alcohol and breaching release conditions. He has remained in jail on remand since May 4.
Territorial Court Judge Christine Gagnon accepted Kristensen’s two guilty pleas. In exchange for the pleas, the Crown dropped other charges related to the Sunridge Place incident and the later bail condition breach.
After noting people shouldn’t “take justice into their own hands,” Gagnon sentenced Kristensen to 90 days in jail, followed by 12 months’ probation with an order to have no contact or communication with the resident of the second-storey apartment.
As he has amassed 81 days of pre-trial credit, that means Kristensen has nine days left to serve.
However, he will have to go to bail court to secure release on the impaired driving charges.
Kristensen will have to provide a DNA sample for the national crime databank and cannot possess firearms for two years.
Gagnon was going to order restitution of $1,048 to Northview Apartment REIT – the owner of Sunridge Place – but reduced it to $500 when Kristensen and his lawyer objected to what they determined was a high cost for the replacement door.
Kristensen will have 12 months to pay the $500, which Gagnon said was the regular cost of an insurance deductible.
Kristensen was also fined $250 for breaching a court order.