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

Terrace RCMP found gloves containing suspected methamphetamine and purple fentanyl following a traffic stop on the afternoon of March 2, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace RCMP seize suspected methamphetamine, fentanyl following traffic stop

Police observed passenger of the vehicle trying to hide bags of white substance between their legs

General voting day for the Terrace trustee by-election is Saturday, March 6 at the Terrace Sportsplex Multipurpose Room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Black Press file photo)
Terrace trustee by-election: Meet the candidates

General voting day is March 6 at the Terrace Sportsplex Multipurpose Room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Terrace RCMP arrested two men on Feb. 17 after they were told to leave the Sunshine Inn and then became combative with police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace RCMP arrest men visiting a person in COVID-19 isolation

Men attempted to strike police with a chair, threatened to kill officers when told to leave

The Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual all candidates forum for the Coast Mountains School District trustee by-election on Feb. 23, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Terrace trustee candidates lay out top priorites during virual all candidates forum

All candidates forum was held virtually on Feb. 23, 2021

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Anti-pipeline protests continue in Greater Vancouver, with the latest happening Thursday, March 4 at a Trans Mountain construction site in Burnaby. (Facebook/Laurel Dykstra)
A dozen faith-based protestors blockade Burnaby Trans Mountain site in prayer

The group arrived early Thursday, planning to ‘block any further work’

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

(Government of B.C.)
Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

Most Read