Skip to main content

Canada Shooting death of Colten Boushie a ‘freak accident,’ Stanley defence argues in laying out its case

Debbie Baptiste, mother of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man who died in August, 2016, holds up a picture of her son as she leaves court during recess on the trial’s fifth day in Battleford, Sask., on Monday.

Liam Richards/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Gerald Stanley stood in the witness box, a gun in one hand, an empty magazine in the other. His face was red, his voice quiet, and he made fleeting eye contact with the jury as he gave his long-awaited account of what happened on the day Colten Boushie died.

Mr. Stanley, a 56-year-old farmer, extended his arms to demonstrate how he stood at the driver's side window of the vehicle and, as Mr. Boushie sat behind the wheel, lunged with his left hand to knock the keys from the ignition. He said he didn't know what his right hand was doing and thought the gun it held was empty. He said he never looked at Mr. Boushie and could only feel a bit of pushing against his arm.

"Boom. It just went off," Mr. Stanley said.

Story continues below advertisement

The bullet entered Mr. Boushie's skull just behind his left ear, killing him.

Mr. Stanley's second-degree murder trial heard the fifth and final day of evidence Monday as the defence presented its case, which culminated with Mr. Stanley's testimony.

The case has riveted Saskatchewan for almost 18 months – ever since the vehicle carrying Mr. Boushie and four of his friends drove onto Mr. Stanley's farm in August, 2016. The reaction to the death of Mr. Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man, has divided the province.

Mr. Stanley said he felt scared when the vehicle drove onto the farm.

He and his son Sheldon, who had been building a fence in the yard, ran to confront two young men from Mr. Boushie's group who were trying to start an ATV near his shed. The court had previously heard testimony that Mr. Boushie was asleep when the group arrived at Mr. Stanley's farm.

Mr. Stanley said that as he and his son approached the vehicle, it tried to drive away. Mr. Stanley kicked at a taillight, and his son smashed the windshield with a hammer. The driver of the vehicle, a grey Ford Escape, then drove toward the road as though intending to leave, before crashing into Mr. Stanley's SUV and coming to a halt.

Mr. Stanley said he walked briskly to his shed, a couple of paces away, where he grabbed his Tokarev semi-automatic handgun. He said he believed he loaded just two shells into the magazine. Then he walked back outside toward the stopped car, he said.

Story continues below advertisement

He spotted two of the men from the vehicle running toward the road and fired a warning shot into the air, he testified. He walked two more paces and fired another shot, he said, this time pumping the trigger three or four times, certain the gun had been emptied.

As he approached the vehicle, he said, he had removed the magazine from the handgun.

"I brought the gun down, and the barrel was sticking out the end, as if it was empty, as it had done a hundred times before. Then I took this hand," indicating his left hand, "and popped out the magazine to insure it was disarmed," Mr. Stanley said.

He then spotted the lawnmower on which his wife had been riding but couldn't see her. He said he was struck with fear that she was under the Ford Escape. He ran around to the front of the vehicle to check, but she wasn't there. While he knelt, the vehicle's engine began to rev very high, he said.

"I thought the car was going to run me over," he said. "I jumped back, startled, and I ran to the driver's window and there was a bar or something metal sticking out the window towards me."

Mr. Stanley said he pushed the metal bar – which turned out to be the barrel of a broken .22 calibre rifle – out of his way with his left hand, leaned into the window and reached with his left hand across the steering wheel for the keys. Then the gun went off.

Story continues below advertisement

"I couldn't believe what just happened. And everything just went silent. … I just backed away," he said.

He did not know there was a gun in the vehicle with Mr. Boushie, he testified. Only later did he learn that the barrel of a .22 calibre rifle was found near Mr. Boushie's body. No one in the vehicle said anything to him either, he said, or made threatening gestures, although he thought they backed up their vehicle aggressively.

Mr. Stanley said he did not point the weapon at anybody and did not pull the trigger when he was close to the vehicle. He believed the gun was disarmed, he said.

Mr. Stanley's lawyer, Scott Spencer, asked if Mr. Boushie had bumped the weapon before it fired.

"I can't say for sure. I didn't feel a lot of struggling on my right hand," Mr. Stanley said.

Under cross-examination from Crown lawyer Bill Burge, Mr. Stanley was asked about what he said to his son, who testified earlier that his father said immediately after the shooting that he "just wanted to scare them."

Story continues below advertisement

"Did you intentionally shoot this person?" Mr. Burge asked.

"No I didn't," Mr. Stanley replied.

Mr. Stanley's lawyer said said Mr. Boushie's shooting was not justified and not an act of self-defence, but the result of trying to fire a warning shot in terrible circumstances. He said it was a hangfire – an unexpected delay between the pulling of the trigger and the firing of the round – that killed Mr. Boushie.

"Ultimately this case comes down to a freak accident that occurred in the midst of an unimaginably scary incident one afternoon," Mr. Spencer said.

"This isn't a justified death. This death is not justified legally or morally," Mr. Spencer said. "This is really not a murder case at all. This is a case about what can go terribly wrong. … Hangfires happen. And that's what happened here."

Mr. Boushie's family members, some weeping, some clutching eagle feathers in court, said afterward it was a difficult day.

As he finished his testimony, Mr. Stanley looked downcast. He grimaced and kept his eyes on the floor as he left the witness stand.

The jury will return on Thursday to hear instructions from Chief Justice Martel Popescul as they prepare to begin deliberations.

The cousin of an Indigenous man shot dead in 2016 is urging people to come out and 'bear witness' at Gerald Stanley’s trial, which began Tuesday. Stanley is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie. The Canadian Press
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter