A man well-known to police in Campbell River has been arrested in connection with a potentially violent robbery of a medical marijuana grow-op in Langford.
Justin Upton, 26, was arrested April 24, along with two other young men by a special police tactical unit.
West Shore RCMP and officers from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. had the trio under surveillance, and watched them enter and leave an undisclosed Langford property in semi-rural residential neighbourhood.
Uniformed RCMP officers stopped the vehicle, arrested the suspects and seized body armour, a Browning 9mm Luger, a Smith and Wesson revolver, a sledgehammer, duct tape and masks.
Police say the property has a heavily-fortified outbuilding which houses a licenced medical marijuana growing operation. No residents were home at the time of the attempted robbery.
Police spokesperson Sgt. Bill Whalen said the suspects came away from the property empty-handed.
In the past two weeks, West Shore RCMP and the Victoria branch of special enforcement unit joined forces due to a number of recent, violent home invasions that targeted people involved in the drug trade on the West Shore.
Whalen wouldn’t say how these suspects were located and targeted, other than, “information on individuals involved in violent home invasions was uncovered.”
West Shore RCMP Cpl. Kathy Rochlitz said police are also investigating if the three suspects have any connection to the recent home invasion in Colwood.
On April 19, around 1 a.m., two men forced their way into an apartment and robbed two people in a home invasion police say targeted the wrong residence.
So far, the three men under arrest are facing charges related just to the April 24 incident.
“For us, anybody carrying this equipment – body armour, hand guns, duct tape and masks – are obviously up to no good,” Rochlitz said. “We are happy to get them into custody before anyone was harmed.”
Upton, Cody Fred Smith, 20, and Jake Cappello, 19, are all charged with using a firearm during a robbery, break and enter to commit an indictable offence and two counts of unauthorized possession of a firearm.
Upton and Cappello are also each charged with wearing a disguise with intent to commit an offence, while Smith is facing additional charges of resisting arrest and using a false name.
On Monday, in Western Communities provincial court, Cappello was released on bail. According to court records, he is expected to enter a plea to the charges on May 17.
A bail hearing for Upton and Smith is scheduled for Thursday.
Upton is well-known to investigators and court staff in Campbell River.
He last appeared in Campbell River provincial court on June 30, 2009, on charges of failing to attend court and resisting arrest.
At the time of his arrest, he was on bail for similar convictions, along with using a stolen credit card in December 2008. And in 2007, in Surrey, Upton received 18 months probation for possession of stolen property.
His court appearance in February 2009 was rather memorable when Judge William Jack tried to impart Jedi wisdom on Upton, who was then 23 years old.
“Don’t try, just do,” said Judge Jack, now retired, doing his best impression of Yoda from the Star Wars films.
Upton replied that his trouble stemmed from when he “was younger and partying.”
“I used to do stupid things...and I’ve only missed two probation appointments in the last year,” he told the court.
Upton was orphaned at a young age after his father died and his mother, Corrine Upton, was murdered along with another woman in a remote location between Campbell River and Courtenay.
One of her killers was then gunned down in his home before the case went to trial, while the other killer was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Upton is also the father of a young daughter.
– With files from Black Press