Vernon man guilty of assault after using Bobcat to intimidate unhoused couple

A Vernon man has been found guilty of assaulting an unhoused couple with a weapon after he used a Bobcat skid-steer loader to intimidate them and destroy their belongings.

The Vernon Provincial Court heard that in August 2022, the couple was biking to Okanagan Lake with all of their belongings when one of them suffered heat stroke and became dizzy.

The couple stopped under a tree for shade, and they told the court they believed it was on public property.

But, 66-year-old William Mcrae believed they were on his property, which was the location of his landscaping business — and after asking them to leave, he soaked the couple with sprinklers.

When they still weren’t moving fast enough, the court heard Mcrae got into the Bobcat with a large bucket and banged it on the path before scooping up the couple’s bikes and belongings.

“After he soaked them, Mr. Mcrae delayed their departure, the opposite of what he wanted,” the judge said in the decision.

“Obviously, being soaked could delay their departure. He knew they were getting up and moving before he went to get his Bobcat. He was in part responsible for [the pair] still being on his property, if they were, by the time he arrived with his Bobcat.”

Mcrae later used the Bobcat to run over their belongings, completely destroying them in the process.

“Mr. Mcrae purposely drove on the path toward [the pair]. He banged his bucket and pushed their effects when they were standing close to them. He did so for the purpose of scaring them,” the decision said.

Because he used the Bobcat on the path and not on the lawn of his property, he “committed the offence of theft. He also damaged [the pair’s belongings], so he committed the offence of mischief in two ways, intentionally interfering with their property and intentionally damaging it.”

The court also found Mcrae guilty of dangerous operation of a conveyance.

“To operate [the Bobcat] the way Mr. Mcrae did was far from normal or in a reasonable and prudent manner,” the judge said in the decision.

“I cannot imagine him doing it on a worksite where Bobcats are meant to be used, let alone a public pathway and boulevard.”

Mcrae has a sentencing hearing set for June 14.

With files from Cole Schisler.