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

Students from SD62 stepped up to help members in the community with the annual 10,000 Tonight food drive. This year’s organizers had to adapt during the campaign as COIVD-19 public health orders changed. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore students step up to make sure community members don’t go without

Students of SD62 are this year’s recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

Millstream Village is welcoming a new Marshalls location March 9. (Photo courtesy GWL Realty Advisors)
New Marshalls store in Langford brings boost to women in need

Retailer will hold opening ceremony in Millstream Village March 9

Abstract Developments is donating $75,000 to support community programming at The Cridge Centre for the Family. (Courtesy of The Cridge Centre)
Victoria developer builds support for community programs

Abstract Developments donates $75,000 to The Cridge Centre for the Family

SD 62 (Sooke) has announced a COVID-19 exposure at David Cameron Elementary in Colwood. Potential exposure dates are Monday, Feb. 22; Tuesday, Feb. 23; and Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Black Press Media File).
COVID-19 exposure at Colwood’s David Cameron Elementary

Potential exposure dates are Monday, Feb. 22; Tuesday, Feb. 23; and Wednesday, Feb. 24.

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read