Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Life-or-death decision, or lies? Final arguments made in shooting case

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Were they acting out their part in a Clint Eastwood-Dirty Harry film, or were two young police officers caught up in a split-second, life-or-death struggle on the mean streets of Winnipeg?

That's the choice facing jurors in the trial against Winnipeg police officers Const. Darrel Selley and Const. Kristopher Overwater.

The two men stand accused of shooting an unarmed crack cocaine dealer in the buttocks and then deliberately trying to cover it up to make it look like the bad guy went for one of their guns.

Selly and Overwater have pleaded not guilty to a number of charges in connection to a high-speed police chase that began in the wee hours of July 17, 2007 and ended minutes later on Lindsay Street near Grant Avenue.

Selley is charged with seven charges including attempted murder using a firearm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm in the shooting of career criminal Kristofer Fournier. Overwater is charged with dangerous driving and is accused of helping Selley fabricate evidence.

Jurors heard two markedly different versions of what happened that night as the Crown and defence made their closing arguments Tuesday.

The case is expected to go to the jury for deliberation later today.

Special prosecutor Robert Tapper portrayed the two officers as renegade cops hell-bent on meting out street justice to Fournier, who had led them on a dangerous police chase through the streets, sidewalks and front lawns of River Heights.

Tapper said the crux of the case is jurors must hold the two officers accountable for their actions.

"We do not allow vigilante justice in Canada, especially (for) those in a police uniform," Tapper told the six-woman, six-man jury. "We don't live in a Third World dictatorship.

"The law does not permit the police to execute the bad guy," he added, comparing their actions to a Clint Eastwood movie and asking jurors to convict the pair. "I'm asking you to preserve democracy in this case."

Tapper also said the two cooked up a story of Fournier wrestling Overwater's gun away during a brief struggle in the darkened lane and then pointing it at Selley seconds later.

Selley claims he fired four shots at Fournier, the last one hitting him in his buttocks when he stopped to aim Overwater's gun at him.

Overwater claims Fournier yanked his gun away from him and took off into the darkness.

Afraid for Selley's life, he yelled out, "Sel, he's got my gun. He's got my gun. Shoot him. Shoot him."

Tapper said that never happened.

He said Selley shot an unarmed Fournier during a foot chase and the two officers placed Overwater's Glock .40-calibre handgun near the wounded man to make it look like the shooting was justified and in self-defence.

Defence lawyers Richard Wolson and Hymie Weinstein told jurors the Crown's case and Fournier's allegations are ludicrous.

Each told the jury Fournier is an habitual liar whose word could not be trusted. Fournier has admitted to driving a stolen GMC Yukon SUV he bought for $200 from a young car thief and that he was high on crystal methamphetamine and marijuana.

"He's a disgusting human being who lies and lies and lies and then comes here to lie to you," Wolson said.

Weinstein and Wolson also told jurors of how difficult it is being a police officer in one of Canada's most violent cities, and at times a life-or-death decision has to be made in a fraction of a second.

"You have to make a split-second decision so you can protect your life and the lives of citizens," Weinstein said.

Added Wolson: "These two police officers put their lives on the line for us and have now had these charges hanging over their heads."

Both lawyers implored jurors to acquit their clients.

chief Justice Glenn Joyal's instructions to the jury are scheduled to begin today at 11 a.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2013 B1


Updated on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:14 AM CST: replaces image

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