Surveillance video footage showed a masked man entering Kootenay Savings Credit Union in Salmo

2014’s top stories No. 2: Pair charged in crime spree

By Kootenay standards, it was a crime wave: three credit union branches, a currency exchange, pharmacy, and gas station robbed at gunpoint.

By Kootenay standards, it was a crime wave.

It began November 13, 2013 when a man entered Shoppers Simply Pharmacy in Castlegar with what appeared to be a shotgun and made off with a large amount of prescription medication and cash. Police released a sketch of the suspect, seen below.

On February 24 of this year, just before closing time, a man robbed the Salmo branch of Kootenay Savings at gunpoint and ran off with an undisclosed amount of money.

The situation repeated itself on March 7 when Johnny’s Groceries and Gas in Robson was held up, and on March 11 when the downtown branch of Kootenay Savings in Castlegar was robbed.

Although no one was physically hurt in any of these crimes, things became even more dangerous on April 11, when a man entered Kootenay Currency Exchange in Nelson, threatened staff and fired one shot. He also got into an office and stole cash.

This time police recovered the getaway vehicle: a small road bike reportedly stolen from a home on Stanley Street. Descriptions of the suspect in most incidents were similar: 5’6″ to 5’8″ and wearing a baseball cap under a black hoodie.

The spree culminated with a sixth robbery at the Nelson and District Credit Union on April 25. (The sign posted on their door is seen below.) A witness who was just outside the building at the time told the Star he saw police following a speeding car driven by a young woman with a man in a hoodie in the passenger seat.

According to the Nelson Police Department, they chased a suspect to a bridge in the Bonnington area. He didn’t follow their orders to stop and instead jumped off the bridge, landing 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 m) below. He suffered “significant” injuries and after being taken into custody, was sent to hospital. A woman was also arrested.

“I want the public to know they are safe — there is no one at large,” chief Wayne Holland said. “The RCMP and Nelson Police Department have been living and breathing this for the last two weeks so we’re tremendously pleased that a very dangerous duo has been put into custody. We hope it’s the end to armed robberies in this vicinity.”

The suspects were named as Andrew Zacharias Stevenson, now 34, and Krista Ann Kalmikoff, now 26. Initially, Stevenson faced 15 charges and Kalmikoff ten relating to the robberies of Kootenay Currency Exchange and Nelson and District Credit Union, as well as two break and enters at Pharmasave and Shoppers Simply in Castlegar on April 18.

Both are accused of robbery, possession of stolen property over $5,000, firearms-related offenses, and fleeing police while Stevenson faces additional counts of disguising his face with intent to commit an offense, and pointing and discharging a firearm. Further charges were later laid against Stevenson in the hold-ups at Johnny’s Grocery and Kootenay Savings in Castlegar, bringing the total to 21.

During Kalmikoff’s two-hour bail hearing, she sobbed quietly in the prisoner’s box. A slim woman with long dyed-black hear, she stared at the floor through most of the proceedings, only occasionally looking at her family members sitting in the gallery.

She was released on $40,000 bail and ordered to stay at a relative’s house in Salmo under strict conditions. Her lawyer Blair Suffredine indicated she would seek trial by jury.

“My client is innocent of all the charges,” he told reporters. “A jury is capable of separating who is the bad guy.”

As a result of the injuries Stevenson suffered, the Independent Investigations Office of BC got involved. The civilian-led organization that investigates police-related incidents that involve death or serious injury. Eight months later, they still haven’t decided whether to forward the case to Crown counsel.

Stevenson has been on crutches at all his court appearances, most by video link from Kamloops. Initially he didn’t seek bail, but then changed his mind. His request was denied.

On September 15, Stevenson was due to elect trial. According to the Ministry of Justice, a deputy sheriff was escorting him into the Nelson courthouse through a sheriff-access only door when he threw off his crutches and fled. He wasn’t wearing leg irons.

The deputy sheriff caught him after a two-block chase. He was then taken back to jail and charged with a further count of escaping custody, to which he pled guilty this month. He’ll be sentenced January 6.

Stevenson and Kalmikoff will have their preliminary inquiries January 28 and 29. Assuming their cases proceed to trial, it will likely be many more months before all the evidence comes to light.

There has been one more robbery since the pair were arrested: on May 23 a man and woman entered Star Grocery in Rosemont, pepper sprayed the owner, and stole cash and cigarettes. (Owner Jian Situ is seen at left.) Police later said the prime suspects were in custody on an unrelated matter, but couldn’t provide details.

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