CASTLEGAR — RCMP West Kootenay Traffic Unit Const. Jason Tait has been charged with manslaughter in relation to the shooting of Waylon Jesse Edey during an attempted traffic stop near Castlegar on Jan. 29, 2015.
The BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) said a charge of manslaughter using a firearm was approved against Const. Tait.
Const. Tait will make his first appearance in Castlegar Provincial Court on April 30, 2018.
The charges came more than three years after the incident and after a lengthy investigation by the Independent Investigation Office.
According to a BCPS press release, the charges were approved following a complete review of the available evidence by senior Crown Counsel. The release also stated that the investigation and charge assessment process were protracted due to the complexities of the evidentiary issues in the case and the requirement for further investigation and analysis.
The incident occurred as Castlegar RCMP and West Kootenay Traffic Services were acting on a complaint regarding an impaired driver in the Castlegar area.
Police eventually located the alleged impaired driver on the Kinnaird Bridge in south Castlegar. During the traffic stop matters escalated and the RCMP officer fired his service pistol at the suspect.
Edey’s mother Deborah Edey was pleased with the news but thought the charge should have been more severe.
“I am very happy, his kids are very happy,” said Edey. “It could have been a better charge, but I will take that — whatever we can get at this point. It has been a long three years.”
“I am thankful to the Crown and the IIO for the hard work they have put in. Now we just need to make sure the officer now is found guilty in court,” she said.
Edey plans to continue with the civil claim she filed in 2016 against the officer involved.
Edey’s lawyer confirmed the announcement does not interfere with their case going forward.
In a response to the civil claim brought forward by Deborah Edey, the Minister of Public Defense, Solicitor General of B.C. and the Attorney General of Canada submitted a “Defendants’ Response to Facts.”
The documents state that the RCMP received a report of an impaired motorist driving a pick-up truck at a drive-through at a local restaurant. The suspect vehicle was located by police westbound on Highway 3 in Castlegar.
The RCMP member drove his police vehicle past the suspect vehicle and stopped on the westbound portion of the highway, ahead of the suspect vehicle.
The RCMP member then “stepped out of his vehicle, got out on foot onto the eastbound portion of Highway 3 and motioned for the driver of the suspect vehicle to stop.”
“The suspect vehicle continued to drive towards the RCMP member as the RCMP member was attempting to stop the vehicle. The suspect vehicle struck the rear driver’s corner of the police vehicle and continued into the eastbound lane of Highway 3 where the RCMP member was located,” the Defendants’ Response to Facts stated.
The document further states that “the RCMP member discharged his service pistol once at the driver of the suspect vehicle while the suspect vehicle was in the eastbound lane …”
The civil documents also state that the defendants say that had the deceased not been contributorily negligent in respect to his own personal safety any injury, loss, damages or expenses suffered by the plaintiffs could have been prevented or there severity reduced.
Particulars of the negligence of the deceased listed in the documents included the following:
* Driving a motor vehicle when his ability to do so was impaired.
* Failing to follow directions of a peace officer directing him to stop.
* Failing to obey instructions and warnings of the RCMP member in the course of an arrest when he knew or should have known that the arrest and use of force against him could result.
* Using his vehicle to make physical threats against the RCMP member
* Driving his vehicle to the left, over a solid double line on the highway
* Driving his vehicle in the direction of the RCMP member so as to place the member at risk of death or grievous bodily harm.
None of these claims has been tested in court.