Two Winnipeg police officers are fighting allegations they dished out "street justice" to a career criminal. But a veteran Winnipeg lawyer is warning jurors not to get caught up in the different backgrounds of those involved, saying the evidence is clear some major misconduct took place.
"Law and order and justice is to be dispensed in courtrooms like this. Not the back lanes of residential Winnipeg," special prosecutor Robert Tapper said Monday in a blistering opening statement. He said there is no question the accused tried to kill an unarmed criminal by shooting him in the buttocks, then attempted to cover up their wrongdoing by inventing a bogus story.
Const. Darrel Keith Selley, 37, is facing several charges, including attempted murder, fabricating evidence, careless use of a firearm and criminal negligence. Const. Kristopher John Overwater, 31, is charged with dangerous driving, fabricating evidence and "aiding and abetting."
Both have pleaded not guilty.
Tapper urged jurors not to be swayed by the fact the two accused are police officers, while their victim is someone they might typically look down upon.
"Go where the evidence takes you," said Tapper.
"I'm sure you've all heard the expression, 'There's an elephant in the room.' There are two in this case."
Tapper claims the facts will become clear that Selley and Overwater acted "far outside their duties" during the 2007 incident.
Kristofer Shawn Fournier, 23, escaped serious injury after being struck in the buttocks by one of four shots allegedly fired by Selley. The incident began in the early morning of July 16 with an armed robbery at a 7-Eleven store on Portage Avenue at Hampton Street. Several officers responded to the incident and Fournier happened to be spotted in the vicinity driving a stolen Yukon SUV.
Police tried to pull him over -- apparently believing he may have been tied to the holdup -- and a wild chase ensued down various residential streets at speeds Tapper called "absurd." Police radio broadcasts of the pursuit will be played during the trial. The chase ended at the corner of Grant Avenue and Lindsay Street when the cruiser car and SUV collided.
Tapper told jurors Monday Overwater was driving and ignored orders from his commanding officers to abort the chase. He alleges Overwater also lied about his speed and road conditions during the pursuit, which will be proven by GPS readings obtained from the cruiser car.
"He did not want to give up the chase," said Tapper.
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. Tapper said Selley fired his weapon while running after Fournier. Overwater then allegedly placed his own gun next to the wounded, handcuffed Fournier, telling other officers the suspect had made a grab for it, Tapper said.
"These two gentlemen were acting outside their duties as police officers," said Tapper.
Fournier is expected to testify later in the trial.