Off-duty police officer Allan Young died after being hit on the head with a skateboard in downtown Nelson on July 16, 2020.
The details of Young’s death were made public for the first time Monday as the manslaughter trial of Alex Willness opened in a Nelson courtroom.
Crown prosecutor Cheryl-Anne Pine began her opening statement to the court with a summary of the circumstances that were captured on surveillance video.
She said at about 11 p.m., Young, a member of the Abbotsford Police Department, and his wife were having drinks on the Cantina restaurant patio in downtown Nelson on Baker Street. There were six other people on the patio.
Three men, one of them Willness, walked up Baker Street toward Cantina from Josephine Street, yelling and distracting the people on the patio. The server warned them she was going to call the police.
Pine said Young rose from his seat and “crossed the threshold of the patio.” He and Willness met in the middle of the street. Willness struck Young on the head with his skateboard, causing Young to go limp and fall to the ground.
Willness and his friends continued westward down Baker Street. Four people from the patio chased Willness and held him at the corner of Baker and Ward Streets until the police arrived.
Young was taken to Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson and died five days later on July 21 at Kelowna General Hospital.
Young was 55 and Willness 26 at the time of the incident. They did not know each other.
The purpose of the trial, Pine said, is to determine whether Willness is responsible for the death of Young. Justice Lindsay Lyster of the B.C. Supreme Court is presiding with no jury. The trial is expected to take several weeks.
Pine listed the witnesses the prosecution intends to call: several of the people on the patio including the server, the medical respondents who provided immediate care on the street and in the emergency ward, police officers, a neurosurgeon who treated Young in Kelowna, and a pathologist who performed the autopsy. She said the court would also see a surveillance video that recorded the altercation.
The only witness to testify on the first day of the trial was Dr. Rahul Khosla, an emergency physician at Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson.
Khosla said Young was brought to the emergency ward at about midnight on a stretcher in an ambulance.
Young was bleeding from a 12-centimetre laceration on his scalp, and he had a bruise on his brow. Khosla determined that the scalp had been fractured.
He sutured the scalp and ordered a CT scan to assess the injury.
Khosla said Young was intoxicated, with a blood alcohol level of “five-to-six times” the legal limit. He was “disoriented,” “agitated,” “combative,” and “unable follow commands.”
Khosla said this mental condition could have been caused by a blow to the head or by intoxication.
The CT result showed bleeding in the brain and increased pressure in the skull. This made the situation urgent for Khosla, who said this showed signs of serious injuries that Nelson’s hospital could not manage. Hoping to have Young transferred to the hospital in Kelowna, he phoned a neurosurgeon there who viewed the scan results online and then recommended monitoring Young with a second scan in the morning.
Khosla said he was “extremely alarmed after the CT scan” and was not in favour of waiting.
He arranged for Young to be transported to the intensive care unit at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail by a specialized ambulance team that had to first travel from Trail to Nelson.
The medical resources in Trail are more advanced than Nelson but those at Kelowna General Hospital are even more highly specialized, albeit a four-hour drive from Nelson.
Meanwhile Young’s condition worsened, with hypertension, dropped heart rate, worsened agitation, and raised blood pressure. Then he became became drowsy and less responsive, Khosla said.
The transport team that was intended to drive Young to Trail arrived at Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson at 4:45 a.m. By then Khosla had done another CT scan, found more bleeding, and talked again with the neurosurgeon in Kelowna.
Khosla redirected the ambulance to the Kelowna General Hospital, and it left Nelson at 6:25 a.m.
He said he requested air transport but none was available.