The mastermind behind an armoured truck heist in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce that resulted in the death of a security guard more than two decades ago has been returned behind bars after he admitted to driving while impaired and assaulting a person after having caused an accident.
Thomas James, 54, is serving a life sentence for his leading role in the Nov. 22, 1994, robbery carried out inside a Provigo grocery store on Monkland Ave. while two guards working with the Secur armoured car company were transporting money to or from the store. Two of four men who took part in the robbery opened fire on the guards — Richard Lavallée and John Rosen — without warning. Lavallée, who was shot at close range in the back, died as a result of his injuries. Rosen survived despite having been shot in both of his arms.
The grocery store was full of clients at the time. James and another man were parked outside in a getaway car and had placed explosives near the store that James was ready to detonate if the robbers were followed while the fled from the crime scene. The robbers made off with $120,000, but were arrested a year later after Claude Ranger, one of the shooters, was arrested for another crime and decided to become a prosecution witness.
On March 7, 1997, a jury at the Montreal courthouse found James guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder. In 2016, he was granted day parole, but that release was revoked following a recent hearing before the Parole Board of Canada. According to a written summary of the decision, James had showed promise while residing at a halfway house but was arrested, in September, after he caused a car accident, assaulted a victim of the collision and fled before the police arrived. He was arrested a short while later and police determined he had been drinking that night.
In December, he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired, assault and uttering threats. He was fined $1,600 and his driver’s license was revoked for a year. He was also sentence to 12 months of probation, but the more significant repercussion is what happened with his life sentence because of the parole violation. He was returned to a penitentiary and will have to wait at least a year before the parole board reviews his case again.
“The board notes that you have committed crimes while on day parole. You put a citizen’s life at risk when you drove your car while intoxicated by alcohol, had a car accident and assaulted the victim of the car accident. You showed very poor social consciousness that night,” parole board member Jean-Claude Boyer wrote in his decision to revoke James’s day parole. “At the (parole) hearing, you expressed being sorry for committing crimes and explained that you were under (intense) pressure from your work, relationships and in a state of panic because your case-management team planned to recommend full parole in your case. You said you need more supervision and help for your substance abuse problem.”
Ranger received a sentence similar to James’s. Kyle Bigelow, the other shooter in the armed robbery, was convicted of second-degree murder and received a life sentence. He served time behind bars in British Columbia before he was granted full parole in 2012.