Cops accused of shooting unarmed thief not guilty

A Winnipeg Police cruiser.

Credits: Brian Donogh/Winnipeg Sun


WINNIPEG - A jury has acquitted two police officers accused of shooting an unarmed car thief and then lying to cover it up.

Jurors delivered their verdict shortly after 5 p.m. following more than two full days of deliberations.

Constables Darrel Selley and Kristopher Overwater hugged their lawyers and family members, many of them in tears, upon hearing the verdict.

Lawyers for the two officers said they were in a foot chase with car thief and drug dealer Kristofer Fournier on July 16, 2007, when Fournier struggled with Overwater and grabbed his gun. Selley shot at Fournier up to four times, wounding him in the buttocks.

Selley and Overwater declined comment outside court.

If convicted, the officers could have faced lengthy penitentiary sentences and seen their careers end in ruin.

"This was one of the most difficult trials I've ever been on," said Hymie Weinstein, who along with son Josh represented Overwater. "When you are acting for someone whose fate and future is hanging in the wind, you know you have to do the best you can because they deserve it."

Jurors heard Fournier, then a drug dealer, was behind the wheel of a stolen GMC Yukon at the same time Selley and Overwater were responding to a report of a convenience store robbery.

Fournier fled, sparking a 12-minute high-speed chase that saw him blow through several red lights and stop signs before colliding with a police cruiser.

Fournier fled on foot down a back lane with Selley and Overwater in pursuit.

Prosecutors alleged Selley, encouraged by Overwater, shot at Fournier up to four times, wounding him in the buttocks.

Lawyers for the two officers painted Fournier as a manipulative career criminal and a "stranger to the truth."
"No police officer wants to shoot at a suspect ... It's frightening for them," Selley's lawyer Richard Wolson said. "These two police officers put their lives on the line for us. Don't let these false allegations continue."

Jurors heard evidence the officers ignored orders to abandon the chase and lied to dispatchers about how fast they were driving. GPS readings from the officers' cruiser indicated they were at times travelling up to 100 km/h faster than they said they were.

"They were driving like people possessed," said special prosecutor Robert Tapper. "So was Fournier, but Fournier was a criminal. Police aren't supposed to do criminal things."

Defence lawyers argued GPS speed readings are often wrong.

They also suggested Overwater may have had trouble seeing the speedometer from the passenger seat.

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