Trial of B.C. Mountie accused of manslaughter wraps and goes to the jury

·2 min read

The case of an RCMP officer in B.C.'s West Kootenay region who was charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a father of four during an attempted traffic stop in January 2015 is now before a jury.

For two months, a jury in Nelson has been hearing details of the shooting of 39-year-old Waylon Edey, almost six years ago on a bridge leading into Castlegar on Highway 3.

Edey, from Yahk, was the father of four children and had a long history of drunk driving and fleeing police. On that January night, he was heavily intoxicated and driving his pickup truck with RCMP Constable Jason Tait in pursuit.

Tait is a former member of the military who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan as a weapons expert.

Submitted by Deborah Edey
Submitted by Deborah Edey

He overtook Edey in his police cruiser, bringing Edey's F-150 to a stop on a bridge into Castlegar. Tait then got out of his police cruiser and stepped into the opposite lane.

When Edey drove at the officer, Tait fired four shots into his pickup truck, killing him.

"Constable Tait was simply doing his job trying to get a very intoxicated, dangerous person off the road," his lawyer David Butcher told the jury.

Butcher says Edey came within seconds of killing Tait, who did what he had to to protect himself and the public.

Butcher was highly critical of the Independent Investigations Office which did the initial investigation that led to a charge of manslaughter against the officer.

"They were bound and determined by any means, fair or foul, to turn the tables and make Constable Tait and not Mr. Edey a criminal," said Butcher.

But Crown Counsel Brian McKinley told the court Constable Tait failed to do a proper risk assessment in overtaking Edey's vehicle and proceeding on foot.

McKinley told the jury it was reckless and well outside police procedure.

"Constable Tait knew, or he ought to have considered, he may have to use lethal force when facing a moving vehicle on foot," McKinley told the court in his closing arguments.

Bob Keating/CBC
Bob Keating/CBC

McKinley says if Tait is acquitted of manslaughter the jury should find him guilty of the lesser offence of dangerous driving.

The eight week trial is being held in a downtown Nelson theatre rather than the courthouse due to COVID-19. The lawyers, judge and Tait himself are on the stage with the jury spaced out in the 400-seat theatre.

The family of Waylon Edey has attended the long trial.

His mother launched a wrongful death civil suit against Tait and the RCMP. The civil case is pending until the criminal case is completed.

The judge gave final instructions to the 12-member jury on Friday.