Credibility an issue in pellet gun case

In the end, Justice Jennifer Power wasn’t sure who to believe: the culprit who suffers from mental illness or the young man with a criminal record who was shot in the eye with a pellet.

In the end, Justice Jennifer Power wasn’t sure who to believe: the culprit who suffers from mental illness or the young man with a criminal record who was shot in the eye with a pellet?

“The key issue is credibility,” she said Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Justice Power was delivering her verdict in the case against Mark Hayward of Campbell River. The 40-year-old was charged with aggravated assault, using a firearm during an offence, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm.

During the trial, the court heard that Hayward was living with a woman and her two sons, including 18-year-old Gerald Stevenson who’s had several run-ins with the law.

On June 26, 2009, Stevenson bought a pellet handgun, which looked like a real gun, and brought it home. His mother was alarmed and thought her son might get shot by police if they saw him with the weapon.

She tried to return the gun, but the store refused to take it back because it had already been fired.

Stevenson took the pellet gun back home and used it for target practice in the small backyard behind their townhouse. The pellet gun caused a lot of friction in the household and Hayward may have thought it was a real handgun.

Things came to a head on July 3, 2009, when Hayward was ordered out of the house by his girlfriend following an argument.

As Hayward was leaving, he saw the gun in plain view, grabbed it and went outside to confront Stevenson. Hayward claimed that as he tossed the ground to break it, the gun fired and shot a pellet which hit Stevenson and became lodged behind his eye.

During his testimony, Stevenson claimed Hayward pointed the gun straight at him and fired. However, the teenager later lied to police when he said the gun had been upstairs in his room. He later changed his story.

However, the injury was serious and Stevenson is left with very blurry vision in one eye that is unlikely to ever improve.

As a result, Hayward was charged and was also homeless. This led to a bizarre series of events the following summer after the conclusion of his preliminary hearing.

With little money and no identification, Hayward decided to take a short vacation in Vancouver. But when he ran out of cash, Hayward decided his only route back to Vancouver Island was by building a raft or swimming across the Strait of Georgia.

But when the attempts quickly failed, Hayward embarked on a long journey on foot which took him east across the mountains to Kamloops. He was eventually found by RCMP sleeping by the side of the Trans Canada Highway.

As a result, he was charged, and later convicted, with obstruction for providing a false name to police. It was his first criminal conviction.

Six weeks after leaving Campbell River, Hayward was returned to the Island and was held in custody to await his trial.

And during the trial earlier this month, Hayward’s eccentricity and mental condition led to several difficulties.

He would often speak out of turn or make interruptions, but it was difficult to understand him because he often mumbles and has a thick British accent.

Hayward may be suffering from schizophrenia, but it’s unclear if he’s ever been properly diagnosed.

The difficulties continued last Thursday as Justice Power read her judgement. Hayward would blurt out, “That’s a lie,” and then continue mumbling as the judge frequently had to stop reading her decision and patiently asked him to remain quiet.

Finally exasperated, the judge broke from her oral presentation and told Hayward he was only being found guilty on one charge, careless use of a firearm.

He was sentenced to time served and ordered to serve one year of probation. During this time he cannot have any contact with Stevenson and must take any counselling or assessment as directed by his probation officer. He is also prohibited from possessing any firearms for five years.