For more than a year after Aug. 9, 2016 — the day Colten Boushie died — little was known about what led to the 22-year-old Cree man's shooting on the Saskatchewan farm of Gerald Stanley.
Stanley, 56, was charged with second-degree murder in Boushie's death. He pleaded not guilty. His two-week jury trial ended Feb. 9 with a not guilty verdict in the Court of Queen's Bench in Battleford, Sask.
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While some details about Boushie's last day remain unknown or are contested, the witness testimonies and evidence photos give some idea of the events that led up to the fatal shooting of Boushie while he was sitting in an SUV on the farm.
Before the farm
Three people who were in the SUV that brought Boushie to the Stanley farm testified in court as Crown witnesses: Eric Meechance, 23, Cassidy Cross-Whitstone, 18, and Belinda Jackson, 24.
They said their day began at the Red Pheasant First Nation reserve, located about 57 kilometres north of Stanley's farm near Biggar, Sask., and that it involved some drinking.
Meechance said the group, which also included Boushie and his girlfriend Kiora Wuttunee, got into Wuttunee's grey SUV and went swimming at a river. On the way back to the reserve, the group got a flat tire.
They ended up at the ranch of Marvin and Glennis Fouhy in the district of Spinney Hill, northeast of the Stanley farm. Cross-Whitstone admitted to trying to break into a truck there.
The group then took off, the SUV's muffler dragging "real bad," according to Meechance.
Down the driveway
Sometime after 5 p.m., Gerald Stanley and his son Sheldon, 28, were putting up a fence on the cattle farm the family had lived on for around 30 years near Biggar, Sask.
Both men heard the SUV coming noisily down the long gravel driveway leading to the farmhouse, garage and shop. Cross-Whitstone said he went there in search of help with the SUV.
Cross-Whitstone didn't know it, but Gerald was also a part-time mechanic, fixing up the vehicles of people who live in the area and even people coming off the road.
Gerald and Sheldon both saw someone from the SUV go into a gold Ford truck parked in the yard by a customer.
"We didn't really think anything of it," recalled Sheldon, thinking it was one of his father's customers.
Both Stanleys saw the SUV make its way toward the shop and someone get out and climb aboard an ATV. Sheldon Stanley hollered at the person.
Meechance said he tried to start the ATV, but denied trying to steal it when cross-examined by Gerald Stanley's lawyer, Scott Spencer.
Boushie remained in the back of the SUV along with Wuttunee and Jackson, according to Whitstone.
"As soon as we heard the quad start, I started running," Sheldon Stanley testified in court.
Gerald Stanley testified that he kicked the tail light because he thought the SUV was headed for his son, while Sheldon admitted smashing the front windshield of the vehicle with a hammer.
Cross-Whitestone said that scared him. Meechance testified the cracked windshield made it hard for Cross-Whitstone to drive.
"There was a parked vehicle we hit," said Meechance, referring to a blue SUV.
"Once I saw the collision, I took off running for the house," Sheldon Stanley testified. He said wanted to get his truck keys that were inside the house.
Jackson told a different story. She said she heard Gerald Stanley tell his son to "go get a gun." She said Gerald Stanley retrieved a gun from the shop and she saw him shoot Boushie twice in the head. (An autopsy only found one bullet entry hole.)
Sheldon Stanley said he heard a gunshot when he was on the deck leading to the house, then another as he entered the home.
When he came out of the house, he said he was looking at his truck, which is when he heard but did not see a third gunshot. He testified he then saw his father by the window of the SUV, with a semi-automatic pistol in one hand.
"It just went off. I just wanted to scare them," he recalled his father saying.
Bullets flying past
Before that last shot, according to Jackson, Meechance and Cross-Whitstone had fled the car while Boushie was in the front passenger's seat.
Both Meechance and Cross-Whitstone said they fled down the farm's driveway, and both said they heard bullets whizzing in their direction.
Meechance said he did not witness the third shot going off. He said he ran so fast he lost his shoes, later recovered from the scene by the RCMP.
Sheldon Stanley said a few minutes after the third shot was fired, Wuttunee and Jackson opened the driver's side door and Boushie tumbled out, a .22-calibre rifle (missing the stock) lying between his legs.
Sheldon Stanley said Wuttunee and Jackson then attacked his mother Leesa, who had been mowing grass on the property and went to the Boushie SUV after it settled near the farmhouse.
"I punched her," said Jackson.
Gerald Stanley's account
Gerald Stanley said he did not point a gun at anyone that day.
He said that after the SUV parked near the farmhouse, he went to his shop and grabbed his Tokarev gun, normally used to scare off wild animals, and loaded the pistol with what he thought were two rounds.
Gerald Stanley said he lost track of where his son was at that point. Feeling "stressed," Stanley told the court he fired two warning shots in the air and kept pulling the trigger to make sure the gun was rid of bullets.
"In my mind it was empty," he said.
He then saw the lawnmower his wife had been riding and felt "pure terror."
"I thought the [SUV] had run over my wife," he said.
Stanley testified that he ran as fast as he could to the SUV and, after hearing the engine rev, went to the driver's window intending to turn the ignition off.
He said he reached for the keys with one hand and had the handgun in the other. He said his finger was not on the trigger
As he was reaching into the vehicle, he said the Tokarev accidentally fired.
"I couldn't believe what just happened," Stanley testified. "Everything seems to just go silent."
Spencer argued it was a case of "hang fire," referring to a delay of several seconds between someone pulling a trigger (as Gerald Stanley said he did after the warning shots) and the bullet coming out.
Asked by Crown prosecutor Bill Burge why he kept the gun in his hand when going to the car window, Stanley said, "I just wasn't thinking straight."
The Stanleys called police and waited inside for them to arrive, drinking coffee at the dining room table.
Over course of the next two days, the RCMP photographed the crime scene. The .22-calibre rifle, which belonged to Cross-Whitstone, was found near Boushie's body. It was bent out of shape and contained five bullets in the magazine and one in the chamber.
Police also found several firearms on the Stanley property. The Tokarev was found in a gun case inside a closet in the farmhouse. Boushie's DNA was later found on the handgun.
Gerald Stanley was taken to the Biggar RCMP station, where he was photographed in a T-shirt and dirt-covered jeans. A day later, he was charged with Boushie's murder.
- A previous version of this story stated that the SUV drove onto the farm at 4:10 p.m. In fact, the evidence suggests they drove onto the farm sometime after 5 p.m.Feb 06, 2018 9:10 PM CT