Suspects from highway-closing takedown charged

Charges have been approved against the two men apprehended during the takedown Wednesday that forced closure of Highway 97 North - one of them well known to the courts and police.

Jamie Hal Hammerstrom, 41, and John Robert Barton Craig, 33, each face five counts, including breaking and entering and stealing a firearm and disguising face with intent to commit and offence.

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Hammerstrom also faces three counts of possessing a firearm contrary to an order and one count each of possessing stolen property under $5,000 and possessing a controlled substance.

The two were arrested late Wednesday morning when a vehicle linked to a theft of a gun and ammunition from a Chief Lake home earlier in the day was spotted by police. An RCMP officer fired off a round in the act although no one was injured.

A stretch of Highway 97 in the vicinity of Noranda Road was subsequently closed for several hours to allow investigators to gather evidence.

Hammerstrom, in particular, has long been regarded as a prolific offender by police.

Perhaps most notable, in 2014 he was sentenced to a further 18 months in jail for attempting to sell stolen firearms through accomplices while he was in custody as a way to raise money for bail.

The plan backfired in more ways than one because Hammerstrom was eventually acquitted on the charges that first put him in custody, only to find himself remaining behind bars facing the new charges.

In 2013, he had been found not guilty of stealing a pickup truck, dangerous driving and fleeing police after a B.C. Supreme Court Justice found Crown prosecution was unable to prove the thief's identity beyond a reasonable doubt.

That same year, charges against Hammerstrom from an alleged home invasion were stayed.

As for Craig, in January 2018, he was sentenced to 162 days in jail for attempting to flee police in a stolen pickup truck.

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