Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Call to 'back off' ignored as police chased suspect

Recording of police communication played in court

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Final evidence was heard Thursday at the trial for two officers accused of chasing an unarmed suspect who was high on meth, shooting him in the behind, then lying about what happened to cover up their wrongdoing.

The prosecution rested and no evidence was offered in defence of Const. Darrel Keith Selley and Const. Kristopher John Overwater.

Selley is charged with attempted murder using a firearm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm in the shooting of Kristofer Shaun Fournier in the summer of 2007. He and Overwater have pleaded not guilty to intending to wound Fournier by firing a Glock .40-calibre handgun, aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.

The officers had chased a stolen Yukon SUV thought to be the getaway vehicle involved in a 7-Eleven robbery. On Thursday, the jury heard real-time audio recordings of the police in pursuit in communication with the dispatcher.

The chase began after two masked men armed with a knife held up a 7-Eleven in St. James at Portage Avenue and Hampton Street at 2:35 a.m. on July 16, 2007. They took off down a back lane. Police responded immediately and ended up chasing an SUV that turned out to be stolen, but not involved in the robbery.

The court heard audio recordings of the high-speed pursuit from St. James through the West End, up and down the sleepy streets and back lanes of Wolseley, the wrong way over the Maryland Bridge and into River Heights.

Cruisers from other districts responded to the call as well.

Selley and Overwater, in the primary pursuit vehicle, questioned going the wrong way over the bridge, but were told to continue. They chased the SUV, speeding up to 142 km/h on Academy Road then slowing down and speeding up through the streets of River Heights.

At one point, the dispatcher asked Overwater and Selley to "back off and keep him in sight."

Sgt. Chris Patts, an investigator with the police professional standards unit in 2007, testified Thursday that he reviewed the audio and the GPS recording from the pursuit and the officers didn't back off.

"Their speeds increased," said Patts. The cruiser went from 82 km/h to 106 km/h seconds before the "back off" instruction came from dispatch, he said. After receiving it, the cruiser sped up to 133 km/h, then 135 km/h then began to let off the gas, slowing down to 56 km/h 21 seconds after receiving the "back off" instruction, said Patts.

He testified "back off" doesn't mean to abort the pursuit, but to "slow down and provide the suspect with time and distance. If police in pursuit back off, the suspects may feel that they're getting away, Patts said.

Fournier was apprehended even though they didn't back off. A bullet hit him in his buttocks after three other shots missed him.

The Crown accused Selley of recklessly firing his weapon while chasing Fournier, while Overwater is accused of putting his own gun next to the wounded man and then claiming to other officers the suspect had made a grab for it.

Fournier said the bullet struck him as he ran down a back alley near Grant Avenue and Lindsay Street after hearing somebody yell, "Shoot him, (expletive) shoot him."

The trial's last witness, Insp. Gordon Perrier, was interrupted by a mix up in evidence.

Numbers on a chart showing the actual police cruiser speeds during the chase versus the speeds the officers reported to the dispatcher, were inaccurate in the copy Perrier and the jury received and differed from the accurate chart the defence was given.

"I apologize profusely," Crown counsel Robert Tapper told the court.

Jurors return to court Monday to hear closing arguments.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 1, 2013 B3

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