Former B.C. fruit growers’ leader charged with threats

threats

Photo of Karma Gill, who police say was threatened with death by a man smashing a shovel on the ground.

DAILY COURIER STAFF

A former leader of the province’s fruit growers is out on bail after police arrested him for threatening to kill an orchardist Monday.

Kirpal Boparai is charged with uttering threats and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose. He was released Tuesday afternoon on several conditions, including an order to stay away from orchardist Karma Gill and his family.

Gill was so upset at lunchtime Tuesday, he hadn’t eaten since the night before. He and his family are terrified they’ll be harmed, he said.

“My mom is nervous and my son and my wife don’t want to come home . . . If someone comes behind me on the tractor, what can I do?”

Gill told the Daily Courier he received several hostile phone calls from a man late Monday afternoon. When Gill answered the second call on his cell, the man asked him about the Aug. 12 hailstorm that ravaged orchards in East Kelowna.

Gill is a board-member with the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative. The man was upset that politicians failed to view his hail damage during a tour of the disaster last week. He became irate and started swearing in Punjabi.

“He’s saying the board is wrong. He wanted to kill me,” Gill said Tuesday. “He said, ‘Where are you now? I want to kill you.’”

Boparai, 54, achieved notoriety last year as president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association. He resigned in disgrace with a month left in his one-year term last December.

The co-op’s directors had cancelled Boparai’s fruit contracts and his membership for selling his fruit to Ontario. They banned him from all co-op property.

Gill, who operates 10 orchards in Kelowna, was working at one of them when the call came. The man phoned back another four times and left belligerent voice messages, he said.

Believing Gill was at his house on East Kelowna Road, the man drove there and confronted one of Gill’s adult sons and a cousin. A surveillance camera captured images of a man in a turban getting out of his truck.

He looked irate with his arms flailing as he paced back and forth.

“He says, ‘bring out your old man’ and ‘he’s dead – right here . . . I’m killing Karma,’” said the son, who asked that his name be omitted.

The video showed the man grabbing a shovel from his truck and slamming it the ground. He assured the young men he wouldn’t hurt them because he has a son the same age.

The man appeared to break the shovel and grab another. Neighbours came over to investigate the commotion. The man’s son was called, who arrived in minutes and removed the shovel from his father.

The man continued threatening to kill Gill even after police showed up, Gill’s son said. While sitting in the back of the patrol car, he called Gill one more time and threatened again to murder him, Gill said.

Boparai is married with two children.

Boparai makes his next court appearance on Tuesday.

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