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

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

The trial of police officer Jason Tait started on Sept. 28

Lawyers for the prosecution and the defence gave their final arguments to the jury on Nov. 5 in the manslaughter trial of Const. Jason Tait of the RCMP held at the Capitol Theatre in Nelson.

On the evening of Jan. 29, 2015, Tait was following drunk driver Waylon Eady on the highway near Castlegar, with lights and siren, trying to pull him over. But Eady didn’t stop.

So Tait overtook Eady and passed him, then placed his car across the westbound lane on the Kinnaird Bridge, blocking Eady’s path. This resulted in a chain of events that led to Tait fatally shooting Eady.

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

Eady’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 Eady’s vehicle and then narrowly escaped being run over by it.

He then ran after the vehicle, slashing the rear tire as he ran, brought the vehicle to a stop and with another officer took Eady, bleeding from a gunshot wound, onto the pavement and administered first aid. Eady died a few minutes later.

Crown prosecutor Brian McKinley’s position was that Tait moved on foot into the eastbound lane to confront Eady, an unnecessary and dangerous move that led to Eady’s death. Defence lawyer David Butcher’s position was that Tait left his vehicle and ran across the highway to save his own life, expecting his car to be rammed.

During the six-week trial, Tait testified that he decided to block the path of Eady’s pickup because otherwise Eady would have driven into Castlegar, endangering the public. He knew, he said, that Eady had multiple drunk driving convictions, was prohibited from driving, was known to be violent toward police, and had run from police in the past.

Tait didn’t want a dangerous car chase through Castlegar, he said, and he didn’t want to just let Edey go, because he was a danger to the public.

McKinley, in his summation to the jury, said the evidence of witnesses and experts in the trial had shown that Tait’s actions, starting with blocking the lane with his vehicle, were wrongheaded and illegal, hence the charges of manslaughter and dangerous driving brought against him.

“We don’t take issue with the fact that Mr. Edey should have been stopped by the police,” McKinley said. “We take issue with the manner in which Const. Tait tried to do that … He ended the life of Waylon Jessie Edey, a 39-year-old father, brother and son. And he did that by intentionally shooting him.”

McKinley said Tait did not conduct a proper risk assessment before deciding to cut Eady off and that with that action, the need for lethal force was foreseeable.

“His actions in unexpectedly blocking the roadway and proceeding on foot were not reasonable, necessary, or proportionate, given the circumstances …,” McKinley told the jury. “His contribution to the creation of that situation [Eady’s shooting death] means that Const. Tait should have criminal responsibility for the outcome.”

McKinley said manslaughter is committed when a person causes the death of another person either through criminal negligence (the person may not have intend to cause harm but their actions were reckless) or through an unlawful act, knowing that harm will result.

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

McKinley said Edey’s reputation as a violent drunk driver who was prone to run from police should have dissuaded Tait from taking the action he did, because Tait should have known there would be a violent outcome, and McKinley said that various witnesses over the past weeks have corroborated this.

Defence council Butcher told the jury that Tait was simply doing his job by trying to get a very intoxicated and dangerous person off the road.

“Waylon Eady 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.”

Butcher said that because of his training and experience in both the Canadian military and then the RCMP, Tait was well equipped to deal with the situation.

When Tait fired his gun he was acting in self-defence, Butcher said, reminding the jury that Tait had testified that he felt closer to death in that moment than at any time facing the Taliban in Afghanistan, where he was a munitions expert.

“Const. Tait was within a second of being killed,” Butcher said. “If that had happened, Mr. Eady would have been charged with homicide for killing a police officer. But things did not happen that way, because … Const. Tait was a military veteran. He possessed shooting skills not possessed by ordinary police officers, to deliver four shots instantly, one of which saved his own life.”

Butcher went into detail about the testimony of an investigator from the Independent Investigations Office, the agency that investigates incidents in which people are injured or killed by police officers. Butcher said evidence produced in the trial showed the agency to be incompetent, and said the case should never have been approved by the Crown for a criminal trial in the first place.

On Nov. 6, Justice Catherine Murray gave her instructions to the jury, who then were sequestered to come to a decision.

Related:

Defence begins presenting evidence in Nelson jury trial of RCMP officer

Trial of RCMP officer begins in Nelson’s Capitol Theatre



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Protestors blocking Columbia Avenue Saturday evening. Photo: Betsy Kline
Old growth protesters begin 24-hour blockade of Castlegar’s main street

Members of Extinction Rebellion plan to stay overnight

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Image: Castleview Care Centre’s Safety Den presentation
Castlegar’s Castleview Care Centre wins safety innovation competition

The Dragon’s Den-style competition was sponsored by Safecare BC

SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 adds electric bus to fleet

Bus will be incorporated into Castlegar route for next school year

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

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

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read