The six-week trial of RCMP officer Jason Tait was held in Nelson at the Capitol Theatre because the courthouse could not accommodate a jury under COVID-19 restrictions. File photo

The six-week trial of RCMP officer Jason Tait was held in Nelson at the Capitol Theatre because the courthouse could not accommodate a jury under COVID-19 restrictions. File photo

UPDATED: Nelson jury finds RCMP officer Jason Tait not guilty of manslaughter

The decision came on Nov. 6 after a five-hour deliberation

A jury in Nelson has found RCMP officer Jason Tait not guilty of manslaughter and of dangerous driving.

The decision came on Nov. 6 after five hours of deliberation following a six-week trial.

On Jan. 29, 2015, Tait attempted to pull over drunk driver Waylon Edey on the highway near Castlegar. When Edey did not stop, a series of events occurred that led to Tait fatally shooting Edey.

The trial concerned whether Tait’s use of force was necessary and reasonable in the circumstances.

In an email to the Nelson Star on Nov. 7, Tait’s lawyer David Butcher wrote, “Jason and his wife, Julie, are very relieved that more than five and a half years of anguish are over. The evidence was very clear that Const. Tait was simply trying to carry out his duty to make the roads of the West Kootenay safer for every road user and pedestrian by trying to arrest a prolific, highly intoxicated, repeatedly prohibited driver.”

When Edey did not stop for Tait’s lights and siren on the highway near Castlegar, Tait overtook Edey and passed him, then placed his car across the westbound lane on the Kinnaird Bridge leading into Castlegar, blocking Edey’s path.

Tait testified in the trial that it was immediately apparent that Edey did not intend to stop. Afraid for his life, he exited his car and ran across the eastbound lane, expecting that Edey was about to ram his vehicle.

Edey’s vehicle then veered into the eastbound lane, heading straight for Tait, who testified that he expected to be run over and killed. As he ran across the eastbound lane he fired four shots at the driver’s windshield of Edey’s vehicle and then narrowly escaped being run over by it.

In summary comments to the jury on Nov. 6, Crown prosecutor Brian McKinley’s position was that Tait moved on foot into the eastbound lane to confront Edey, an unnecessary and dangerous move that led to Edey’s death.

Defence lawyer David Butcher said Tait had testified that he left his vehicle and ran across the eastbound lane to save his own life, expecting his car to be rammed.

McKinley told the jury the Crown’s evidence showed that Tait’s decision to cut off the path of Edey’s vehicle was dangerous and unnecessary and led eventually to Edey’s death.

“Constable Tait’s actions … were a marked and substantial departure from what a reasonable police officer would have done in the circumstances,” McKinley said.

Butcher said the defence evidence showed that Tait’s decision to cut off Edey was a calculated risk designed to prevent an intoxicated driver from entering downtown Castlegar.

“Waylon Edey was a danger to each and every person who drives or walks on our streets,” Butcher said. “He was disdainful of the law. He was an outlaw in every way. Const. Tait is hired by all of us to protect us from people like Mr. Edey. He had a duty to act.”

The investigation of Edey’s death was done by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency that investigates incidents in which people are injured or killed by police officers. The IIO decides whether to recommend to the Crown that criminal charges be laid, as they did in this case.

Butcher, in his remarks to the jury and in his email to the Nelson Star was sharply critical of the IIO’s investigation and of the Crown’s decision to charge Tait and take the case to trial.

“The investigation and prosecution of a completely innocent man cost millions of taxpayer dollars,” he wrote. “Thankfully, the jury – a random collection of everyday folk from the Nelson area – used their common sense and life experience to bring the five and a half years of nonsense to an end in less than five hours.”

In response, the provincial Crown office said in an email that the Crown applies a two-way test to decide whether to approve charges: there must be a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the investigating agency, and the prosecution is in the public interest.

“The BCPS approved charges in this case after concluding that the charge assessment standard for proceeding with criminal charges was met,” the email states. “The same standard is applied to all reports to Crown Counsel. While the verdict in this case is not the result the BCPS advocated for, we respect the jury system and the judicial process that supports it.”

Ronald MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the IIO, told the Nelson Star in an interview that the agency stands by its investigation in the Tait matter and disputes Butcher’s allegation that the investigation was incompetent.

He pointed out that before the matter came to a trial, a judge in a preliminary hearing had decided there was enough evidence to try the case.

In any event, he said, “This trial was not about the competence of the IIO investigation. It was about whether or not the officer in this case had breached the criminal law.”

He said the fact that a jury found Tait not guilty should not lead to the conclusion that the case should not have gone to trial.

The last six paragraphs of this story were added on Nov. 12.

Related:

Defence begins presenting evidence in Nelson jury trial of RCMP officer

Trial of RCMP officer begins in Nelson’s Capitol Theatre

Defence and prosecution give final arguments to Nelson jury in RCMP manslaughter trial

www.facebook.com

crime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Board of Trade calls for ‘immediate’ government help for businesses shut down

‘Don’t punish all businesses for the sins of a few,’ CEO Anita Huberman says

The 3D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Mammography machine, new to the Surrey Breast Health Clinic at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. (submitted photo)
New 3D breast-cancer technology in Surrey ‘has already helped so many women’

Digital breast tomosynthesis new to Surrey Breast Health Clinic

Helen Watson, posing for a photo for her 100th birthday, turned 105 on Saturday (Nov. 21). (File photo)
South Surrey Spanish Flu survivor marks 105 years

Helen Watson has packed a lot into life – including being in two pandemics

Gurdawara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar in Surrey is warning the public of a possible COVID-19 exposure at the temple between Nov. 18 and 20. (Photo: Google Street View)
Surrey gurdwara warns of possible COVID-19 exposure

Facebook post says individual was at the temple Nov. 18 to 20

(Photo: Amy Reid)
VIDEO: 2020 Community Leader Awards recognize Surrey’s unsung heroes

They don’t often receive recognition and don’t necessarily have a high profile in the community

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Tabor Home in Abbotsford records 8 deaths and 124 COVID-19 cases

63 per cent of residents at long-term-care facility have tested positive

Most Read