Edmonton man shot by police testifies in his own defence

An Edmonton man accused of using his car as a weapon to assault three police officers claims that at first, he thought he was dealing with a hit man, not police.

Everett White is on trial for 25 charges that include three counts of assaulting a peace officer, 14 weapons offences and two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking.

On Oct. 3, 2017, a specialized police traffic unit received a call about possible drug activity in a quiet, remote neighbourhood in southwest Edmonton.

The caller said there were cars parked on a dead-end residential street with a few people standing outside the vehicles. The caller was able to provide a plate number.

Sgt. Jessie Poonian reached a conclusion once police checked the plate on their computer system.

"I figured we're dealing with possibly some serious criminals," Poonian testified Monday. "We're possibly dealing with people who are likely involved in drug dealing."

Five officers in three vehicles developed a plan before responding around 9:30 p.m. to the dark, secluded scene at 45th Avenue and 211th Street.

Edmonton Police Service
Edmonton Police Service

Poonian was the only officer in a marked vehicle, so he approached the scene from the front while the other two unmarked vehicles approached from behind.

Before he turned the corner to approach a parked BMW, he sat with his lights off and listened for any sounds of activity, he said.

As he approached the cars, Poonian turned on his headlights.

"And then right away I saw two males," Poonian said. "They are running towards the BMW."

Poonian said he turned on his emergency lights.

'I felt I was hit really hard'

He was afraid the men would try to get away, so he testified he drove his SUV to within a foot of the BMW's front bumper. Poonian said the BMW driver rammed his vehicle, then backed up before doing it again with more force.

"It shook my police vehicle and pushed me back in my seat. I felt I was hit really hard," Poonian said.

The sergeant got out of his vehicle, pulled his gun out of the holster and pointed it at the hood of the BMW as he screamed at the two men to get out of the car.

He said a constable was standing next to the BMW driver's door as the vehicle tried to back up.

"Then I heard three or four gunshots being fired in succession," Poonian said. "At that point I didn't know who fired the shots or where the shots were coming from."

Court exhibit/Edmonton Police Service
Court exhibit/Edmonton Police Service

The constable was the shooter. He fired seven hollow-point bullets at the BMW driver.

"We have this dynamic situation that's totally out of control," Poonian testified.

Everett White was hit by two or three of the bullets; his neck was grazed and he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Last May, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates cases of serious injury or death involving police, cleared the constable of any wrongdoing.

'Somebody wants to kill me'

White refused to cooperate with the ASIRT investigation. This week was the first time he spoke publicly about the incident.

The 24-year-old said he and some friends went to the remote location to smoke marijuana after a couple of hours gambling at the nearby River Cree Casino.

"Then we see this vehicle come creeping up very slowly with no lights," White testified. "It kind of slowed down before it turned on the headlights."

White said he ran towards the BMW.

"I just remember thinking to myself, somebody wants to kill me. I have enemies. That's why there was a gun on me, right? I've been shot at before."

Court exhibit/Edmonton Police Service
Court exhibit/Edmonton Police Service

Two weapons were found at the scene, a sawed-off shotgun in a paper bag in the backseat — which White claimed to have no knowledge of — plus a pistol White admitted was his.

White claimed Poonian was the one who rammed him with his police vehicle.

"I did not understand what was going on at the time; I couldn't see what kind of vehicle this was," White testified. "So I start the vehicle, put it into reverse. So now I can see from my own headlights it's a police vehicle."

He said he still wanted to get away, because of the illegal gun in his possession, so he put the vehicle in reverse.

"Then the next thing you know, I'm getting shot," he said.

White said he suffers from flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety attacks and regular shoulder pain as a result of that night.

Court exhibit/Edmonton Police Service
Court exhibit/Edmonton Police Service

During cross-examination, he denied he was a drug dealer and claimed he didn't understand a pair of apparently drug-related text messages found on one of the five cell phones in his vehicle.

On Jan. 31, the defence will argue White's constitutional rights were violated during the arrest.

Lawyer Jake Chadi will ask the judge to either stay the criminal charges or impose a shorter sentence if White is convicted.