Khill trial hears from po­lice at shoot­ing scene

Indige­nous lead­ers pay­ing close at­ten­tion to trial for white man charged with mur­der of Oh­sweken man

The Welland Tribune - - Canada & World - COLIN PERKEL

HAMIL­TON — The trial of a white home­owner charged with killing an Indige­nous man as his truck was al­legedly be­ing stolen from his drive­way got un­der­way Tues­day un­der the close watch of First Na­tions lead­ers in On­tario.

The case has some sim­i­lar­i­ties to the racially fraught trial and ac­quit­tal of a white Saskatchewan farmer ac­cused of mur­der­ing an Indige­nous man.

In his open­ing state­ment, Crown lawyer James Nadel told jurors that the white ac­cused, Peter Khill, shot dead Jon Styres, 29, in the early hours of Feb. 4, 2016.

The shoot­ing took place in front of Khill’s home in the com­mu­nity of Glan­brook out­side Hamil­ton as Styres, of Oh­sweken, Ont., on the Six Na­tions Re­serve, al­legedly tried to steal the ac­cused’s 15-year-old pickup from the drive­way, court heard.

“(This was) a killing that never should have hap­pened,” Nadel told the trial, not­ing that the muz­zle of Khill’s shot­gun was less than four me­tres from Styres’ chest.

In brief open­ing com­ments, de­fence lawyer Jef­frey Man­ishen ad­mit­ted his client, who has pleaded not guilty, killed Styres.

“He did, in fact, shoot John Styres twice with a shot­gun,” Man­ishen told the five women and seven men on the jury. “(Styres) died of those in­juries.”

Khill, then a 26-year-old me­chan­i­cal tech­ni­cian and licensed mill­wright, had served as a re­servist with a Brant­ford ar­tillery reg­i­ment of the Cana­dian Armed Forces. He has been on bail since shortly af­ter his ar­rest and, dressed in a suit and tie, qui­etly watched pro­ceed­ings from his lawyers’ ta­ble.

The case has shades of the emo­tion­ally charged trial and ac­quit­tal by an all-white jury of white Saskatchewan farmer Ger­ald Stan­ley, who was ac­cused of mur­der­ing an Indige­nous youth, Colten Boushie, in Au­gust 2016. Stan­ley tes­ti­fied he shot Boushie in the back of the head ac­ci­den­tally.

The Boushie case, which led to protests against a jus­tice sys­tem Indige­nous peo­ple ar­gued was racist, even prompted Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau to say Canada has to “do bet­ter.”

In a state­ment on Mon­day, Six Na­tions Chief Ava Hill said Styres’ death has had a “sig­nif­i­cant im­pact” on the com­mu­nity and the trial would be closely watched.

“Indige­nous peo­ple will not feel safe un­til there is a jus­tice sys­tem in place that val­ues Indige­nous lives,” Hill said. “Each fail­ure of the jus­tice sys­tem ... rep­re­sents how 150 years of col­o­niza­tion con­tinue to trans­late into racism, in­jus­tice and tragedy for Indige­nous peo­ples.”

Jurors at the Khill trial, be­ing heard be­fore Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Stephen Glithero, were all asked whether they could be im­par­tial given the races of the ac­cused and vic­tim.

The first wit­ness, Hamil­ton Const. Jef­fery Hahn, tes­ti­fied Tues­day that he re­sponded to a shoot­ing call at a home, which he said was in near to­tal dark­ness with the ex­cep­tion of a bright front porch light.

A fe­male fig­ure was on the porch, he said.

“Where is the gun?” Hahn said he yelled at her. A male voice by the pickup truck in the drive­way re­sponded it was in the house.

A man was pac­ing back and forth, Hahn said. De­spite the sea­son, he had no pants on — just his shorts, the of­fi­cer tes­ti­fied.

“I said to him: ‘Where’s the guy?’ He pointed and said, ‘Over here. He’s not breath­ing.’”

Hahn said he saw a per­son ly­ing on his back next to the truck, knelt in the muck, and be­gan do­ing chest com­pres­sions.

“I could hear the sound of air es­cap­ing from his chest,” Hahn told the court.

Hahn cut away the vic­tim’s cloth­ing to dis­cover “quite a large hole” in the man’s up­per left chest. Paramedics soon re­sponded and pro­nounced the vic­tim dead.

The of­fi­cer also tes­ti­fied that the pas­sen­ger door of the GMC pickup — the lock had been “punched” to fa­cil­i­tate en­try — was open, and the side of the steer­ing col­umn was dam­aged. Power to the dash and ra­dio was on but no keys were in the ig­ni­tion. Next to the door, some loose change, a screw­driver and a glove were ly­ing in the mud, Hahn said.

Const. Matthew Robin­son later tes­ti­fied about re­spond­ing to the call from a woman that her boyfriend had shot some­one on the drive­way, and ar­rested Khill at the scene.

“I even tried to save him,” Robin­son said Khill told him.

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