A feud between neighbours in the Harrison Hot Springs area boiled over into an violent assault, for which Francisco Rueda received judgement in the Chilliwack Law Courts Thursday (June 8). The 69-year-old man now lives in Quebec, but he appeared by video to hear the verdict from B.C. Provincial Judge Peter Whyte.
Rueda was charged with one count of assault with a weapon for an incident that happened July 27, 2021. He received a conditional discharge that leaves him with no criminal record but requires him to perform 50 hours community service and take counselling.
From the moment Rueda and his wife moved into their “dream retirement home,” in 2015, he and his neighbour did not get along. Rueda, who is Mexican, claimed the neighbour made racist comments towards him and his wife and desecrated his dog’s grave. On the day of the assault they got into an argument over organic waste that one had left on the other’s yard. There was no specific description of what that waste was or whose yard it was left on, but Rueda and the neighbour exchanged words and the situation escalated.
“It was by all accounts a minor dispute and one that should have been handled in a rational and mature manner,” Whyte said, delivering his reasons. “Regrettably, it was not so managed.”
Video taken by a witness showed Rueda holding a large piece of wood around three feet long. He swung it and struck the neighbour on the left side of his lower torso. Moments later, as the neighbour tried to walk away, Rueda swung the wood again, hitting him from behind on the side of the head.
“It was a violent, unprovoked and cowardly attack upon a person whose head was turned away,” Whyte noted, describing it as a sucker punch. “It was not a single impulsive act but rather it was a series of assaults, albeit over a short period of time.”
In a victim impact statement, the neighbour said he lost sleep fearing another attack by Rueda, and complained that he’d been left with ongoing neck pain, including a ‘crunching sound’ when he turns it. He wrote that he experienced a buzzing/vibrating sensation in his left ear, along with pain in his left hip.
Rueda claimed that the neighbour pushed him to the ground several times before video started rolling on the altercation and he picked up the stick in self defence. Rueda suggested the neighbour orchestrated the event in advance in order to goad him into a physical response that could be reported and used against him. Whyte observed that while Rueda showed remorse for how his actions and subsequent legal trouble affected his wife, he showed “notably limited” empathy for the neighbour.
Rueda grew up in Mexico City and he and his wife became Canadian citizens in 2012. They split their time between Mexico and Canada and he feared a criminal conviction would prevent him from crossing the border. Crown had argued for a suspended sentence which would have left him with a criminal record, but the conditional discharge made that a non-issue.
Whyte said that while the nature of the attack bothered him, Rueda was someone who is the “lowest risk to re-offend.”
“I judge Mr. Rueda’s conduct as grave in these circumstances and his degree of responsibility is high,” Whyte said. “But while this is a close call for me, I ultimately find it to not be contrary to the public interest to grant Mr. Rueda a conditional discharge. I find that the process of prosecution has had a deterrent effect on Mr. Rueda, such that a conviction is not necessary.”