B.C. police officer found not guilty after shooting and killing a fleeing suspect in West Kootenays

·2 min read

An RCMP officer has been found not guilty for shooting and killing a fleeing suspect on a bridge into Castlegar six years ago.

Const. Jason Tait was charged with manslaughter in the 2015 death of 39-year-old Waylon Edey after an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. recommended he be charged.

But a 12-person jury in Nelson acquitted the Mountie after only a few hours of deliberation following the end of the eight-week trial on Friday.

Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, criticized the IIO and said the matter should have never gone to trial.

"This should have been resolved much earlier, and should not have gone to court, leaving both Const. Tait, his family, and Mr. Edey's family waiting for five years for a clear and fair resolution," he said in a statement.

The court heard how on a cold January night, Edey — who had a history of driving drunk and fleeing police — was attempting to evade Tait.

Tait countered by overtaking Edey's Ford F-150 on the bridge in his police vehicle before forcing him to stop. When the officer stepped out of his vehicle, Edey drove at him.

Bob Keating/CBC
Bob Keating/CBC

That's when Tait — a war veteran and weapons expert — fired four shots into the pick-up truck, killing Edey.

On the stand Tait said he did what he had to to save his own life and possibly others. His lawyer was more direct calling both the investigation and charges "rubbish."

Crown counsel argued that Tait failed to do a proper risk assessment in overtaking Edey's vehicle and proceeding on foot, calling the manoeuvre reckless and outside police procedure.

Edey's mother has launched a wrongful death civil suit against Tait and the RCMP.

The trial was held in a downtown Nelson theatre rather than the courthouse due to COVID-19.