Crown stays charge in RCMP firearms trial

Trial of RCMP officer ends abruptly as crown counsel initiates a stay of proceedings.

The trial of an RCMP officer ended abruptly as Crown counsel initiated a stay of proceedings on Wednesday morning in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Richard Drought, who was on trial for careless use of a firearm, was visibly emotional as the courtroom erupted in cheers upon the announcement.

A stay of proceedings is used when Crown counsel does not wish to move forward with prosecution of a charge. There is a 12-month period that allows Crown counsel to move forward with prosecution, however, upon expiry of that time period, then the initial proceedings are considered to have never taken place.

Crown counsel Oleh Kuzma opened the seventh day of Drought’s trial by announcing that new evidence had been heard that hadn’t been heard previously before.

“After assessing all the available evidence, the Crown has concluded that there is no substantial chance of conviction,” said Kuzma, a special prosecutor from Victoria who served as crown counsel for the case.

With the trial now over, it is up to the RCMP to decide whether or not to allow Drought to return to active duty, if he so wishes.

Drought, a 15-year veteran of the RCMP, was on trial for a police shooting incident dating back to October 2012.

On Oct. 2, 2012, Drought was involved in a high-speed pursuit of a stolen Toyota 4Runner that had been carjacked near Yahk, picking up chase outside Cranbrook near Elizabeth Lake.

The pursuit went through Cranbrook on Highway 3/95, until the stolen vehicle, which was being driven by Nickolas Bullock, turned onto Victoria Ave. with Drought still in pursuit.

The pursuit continued to a rural acreage near the College of the Rockies Gold Creek Campus after Bullock drove through a wooden fence and turned the vehicle around to retrace his tracks.

Drought parked his RCMP cruiser at a gate close to where the fence had been smashed through and entered the property.

While testimony of what happened next varied between Bullock’s memory and a forensic firearms expert, the evidence showed that seven bullets struck the vehicle through the windshield from the front passenger side angling towards the driver, while two more entered from the rear passenger window—again, angling towards the drivers seat.

Bullock was shot twice in the wrist and twice in the left shoulder. In total, Drought’s magazine was missing 11 rounds after it was seized by investigators.

During cross-examination of Bullock on Tuesday, defence counsel Neville McDougall suggested that Bullock drove directly at Drought as the 4Runner exited a cluster of trees, which he denied.

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) was called in to look at the situation—it was only the second investigation from the newly created office at the time—and a report was filed to the Criminal Justice Branch, which approved the charge in August 2013.