After a trial that had run for seven days, Crown counsel abruptly requested a stay of proceedings for an RCMP officer who was charged with careless use of a firearm.
Announced last week, the request capped off a three-year long saga for Richard Drought, a 15-year veteran of the RCMP was involved in a shooting incident in October 2012 on a rural acreage near the College of the Rockies Gold Creek campus.
As part of the trial, the Crown had brought forward expert and witness testimony, including that of Nickolas Bullock, who was shot at the conclusion of a high-speed pursuit through Cranbrook.
According to a spokesperson from the Criminal Justice Branch, the stay of proceedings was requested because the likelihood of a conviction was not substantial based on the emergence of new evidence.
“There was some differences in the evidence from what the Crown had anticipated in the case, and there was also some additional evidence that became available in relation to the scene of the incident and that combined to the Crown reassessing the prosecution case,” said Neil MacKenzie, Communications Counsel with the Criminal Justice Branch.
Without going into specific details, MacKenzie noted that the new evidence related to the scene of the shooting and how the incident had allegedly occurred, which affected the Crown’s assessment of whether it could be proven that the officer’s actions were an excessive use of force in the circumstances.
“It’s not unusual for evidence at trial to come out differently than what Crown anticipated and there is sometimes additional evidence that comes up during the course of a trial or a different aspect, a different way of looking at certain evidence,” he continued.
“…We, as prosecutors, have a responsibility to apply our charge assessment standard on an ongoing basis and so, if at any point, we’re no longer satisfied that the charge assessment standard for continuing a prosecution is met, then it’s our responsibility to end the proceedings and that’s what the trial Crown concluded, in this case.”
On Oct. 2, 2012, Bullock carjacked a Toyota 4Runner near Yahk along with a underage female accomplice with the plan of going to Calgary.
Drought picked up the chase on Highway 3/95 near Elizabeth Lake just outside Cranbrook, and pursued the the stolen 4Runner up Victoria Ave before it crashed through a wooden fence on a rural property.
At the conclusion of the incident, 11 shots were fired from an RCMP service pistol, with Bullock receiving wounds to his wrist and shoulder. He, along with his accomplice were arrested and taken into custody.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) was a newly created investigatory body at the time, with the mandate of investigating officer-related incidents of death or serious harm in order to determine whether or not an officer may have committed an offence.
The IIO investigated the incident and forwarded a report to Crown counsel on April 3, 2013, with a charge of careless use of a firearm being approved five months later.