Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Officers disobeyed orders to abort pursuit, trial told

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A controversial shooting that has put two police officers on trial and their careers and freedom on the line could have been avoided had they listened to orders from a fellow cop.

Const. Darrell Selley and Const. Kristopher Overwater were told to stand down and let a member of the police K-9 unit and his four-legged partner pursue a suspect.

But a Winnipeg jury heard Thursday the officers ignored Const. John Taylor and continued to give chase, ultimately ending with the suspect shot in the back.

"Guys, I'm on scene; don't chase him, don't chase him," Taylor instructed Selley and Overwater over the police radio.

He told jurors he was worried they might throw off the suspect's scent and make it hard for his dog, Judge, to follow the trail.

The bullets began flying seconds later, with the first three shots missing before the fourth lodged in the left buttock of Kristofer Fournier.

Selley, 37, is now facing several charges, including attempted murder, fabricating evidence, careless use of a firearm and criminal negligence. Overwater, 31, has pleaded not guilty to charges including fabricating evidence and "aiding and abetting."

Fournier testified earlier this week and admits he was behind the wheel of a stolen Yukon SUV in 2007 when Selley and Overwater began chasing him, believing he may have been involved in a nearby armed robbery of a 7-Eleven store. He doesn't dispute driving at excessive speeds through residential neighbourhoods while high on meth and carrying cocaine in his pocket.

But Fournier insists he did nothing more than run away after his vehicle spun out at an intersection. Moments later, he was ducking bullets as somebody allegedly yelled, "Shoot him, (expletive) shoot him."

Crown prosecutor Robert Tapper alleges Overwater was driving the police vehicle and ignored orders from his commanding officers to abort the chase. He alleges Overwater lied about his speed and road conditions during the pursuit, to be proven by GPS readings obtained from the cruiser. Fournier ran away, not wanting to be caught with a stash of drugs, and was shot despite posing no apparent threat to the officers and having no weapon, the Crown says.

Tapper claims Selley recklessly fired his weapon while running after Fournier, and Overwater then allegedly placed his own gun next to the wounded, handcuffed Fournier, telling other officers the suspect had made a grab for it. This was an attempt to create a bogus explanation for why Selley opened fire, Tapper alleges.

Const. Don Leveille was one of the officers who arrived on scene. He told jurors Thursday he was surprised by what he saw.

"I could see (Fournier) had a bullet hole in his butt cheek, and I noticed underneath his hands was a service-issue Glock pistol." Leveille knew scene preservation was important, but decided officer safety trumped that and quickly grabbed the gun to get it out of the way. He returned it to Overwater's holster and told a commanding officer what he'd done.

Fournier's credibility and version of events came under attack from defence lawyers due to his lengthy criminal record. But Tapper urged jurors in his opening statement this week to "follow the evidence" and not be tricked by the very different backgrounds of the accused officers and the career-criminal victim.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2013 A6

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