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Seven-year sentence for man who attacked liquor store clerk with knife

Last November, William Bolton pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault and robbery in connection with a March 19, 2020, incident at the U-District Liquor Store, across from Thompson Rivers University.
William Bolton.

A 34-year-old Kamloops man who slashed a liquor store clerk with a knife, cutting his head and arm, has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

Last November, William Bolton pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault and robbery in connection with a March 19, 2020, incident at the U-District Liquor Store, across from Thompson Rivers University.

On Tuesday (May 25), B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dennis Hori handed Bolton a seven-year sentence for robbery and a concurrent four-year sentence for aggravated assault.

When factoring in his 14 months spent in pre-trial custody — with 1.5 days’ credit for each day — Bolton has 5.5 years left in his sentence

Last week, Crown prosecutor Laura Drake asked the court to impose a seven-year sentence for the liquor store robbery and six years for the aggravated assault, to be served concurrently, while defence lawyer Jay Michi called for a concurrent sentence of five years for the robbery and four years for the aggravated assault.

Court heard Bolton walked into the private liquor store in the Landmark Centre at about noon on March 19, 2020, and, while at the checkout and without having paid, began putting bottles of liquor into a bag he brought with him.

The clerk tried to stop Bolton, taking the bottles out of the bag.

“I told him, that’s not how this works. At that point, he pulled a machete-type thing, told me I was going to die and started waving at me with it,” the clerk told KTW last spring.

Security footage from the store, which had no audio, was played in court, showing Bolton pull a knife from that bag, walk around the counter and proceed to slash at the clerk.

The clerk threw objects at Bolton as he stepped towards him. While backing away, the clerk tripped over some stairs and fell. Bolton slashed at the clerk on the ground. The clerk raised his arms in an attempt to try to block the blows of the knife. 

Drake said the clerk told Bolton to take the money and leave, which caused Bolton to pause his attack. The clerk got up and entered an office behind him, from where he called 911.

Bolton stole the cash drawer and fled the scene.

Police responded to find the bloodied clerk, who was transported to Royal Inland Hospital, where he received three staples to close a wound to his head.

Bolton was arrested the next day in Lower Sahali. The 19-centimetre-long knife used in the attack, along with some loose change, was found in the Hillside Cemetery behind the liquor store.

Bolton, court heard, was on drugs the day of the attack and committed the robbery to feed his habit. Michi said Bolton used fentanyl on a daily basis, supplemented by methamphetamines.

Court heard Bolton, an Indigenous man originally from Williams Lake, had a difficult upbringing.

He was taken away from his family when he was eight years old and placed in the foster care system and forced to learn English, having until then only spoken his Indigenous language.

In foster care, court heard, Bolton bounced between 28 different homes and experienced mental, physical and sexual abuse, which turned him to a life of drug use when he was a teenager.

Court last week also heard a victim impact statement from the clerk, who described Bolton’s attack as forever altering his life.

In a letter read by Drake, the clerk detailed physical and mental-health injuries he sustained, including post-traumatic stress disorder, short-term memory problems, a fear of leaving his home and a distrust of strangers.

The clerk said he has been unable to return to work since the attack and feels he will need to find a new career after 30 years in retail management as a result of the attack.

Court also heard a victim impact statement from the clerk’s wife, who said her husband is no longer the same functioning man she married and that she has been left as the primary caregiver for their autistic son.

Bolton attended the sentencing arguments hearing last week via video conference call and said he feels terrible about what happened.

“I understand that this was a terrible thing that happened and I’ll accept the consequences,” Bolton said, adding he has undertaken programs while in jail to address his aggression and substance abuse and will continue to work on bettering himself.