NELSON, B.C. — Waylon Edey was 39 years old when he died in hospital in Trail, B.C., after being shot in the head by a police officer who was later charged and acquitted of manslaughter.
The RCMP had been responding to a complaint about a driver on Highway 3 in Castlegar, B.C., on Jan. 29, 2015.
RCMP Const. Jason Tait shot Edey during an "attempted traffic stop," the Independent Investigations Office of BC found, and Tait was acquitted on charges of manslaughter using a firearm and criminal negligence causing death with a firearm in November 2020.
At the time, the acquittal was applauded by the National Police Federation, the RCMP's collective bargaining organization, which pointed out in a news release after Tait's not guilty verdict that Edey "had a lengthy record of impaired driving and violence."
"The jury returned their decision after only five hours of deliberation, following eight weeks of trial," federation President Brian Sauvé said. "This should have been resolved much earlier, and should not have gone to court, leaving both Cst. Tait, his family, and Mr. Edey's family waiting for five years for a clear and fair resolution."
Sauvé said the province's independent police watchdog was "overwhelmed and under-resourced" at the time of its investigation, which resulted in a "lengthy, unnecessary subsequent criminal proceeding."
A coroner's inquest into Edey's death wrapped up on Friday, and the inquest jury has made a number of recommendations for the provincial government, the RCMP, and the city of Castlegar after digging into the facts behind the fatal shooting.
The jury's recommendations include urging the province and the RCMP to speed up the introduction of police body cameras for front line officers, as well as dash cams on police vehicles.
Jurors also urged more training for officers in de-escalating high-stress situations, and new provincial and federal laws to prevent prohibited drivers from getting behind the wheel.
The jury also concluded the Insurance Corporation of B.C. should change policy around insuring vehicles owned by court-prohibited drivers and said the Minister of Public Safety and the RCMP should "explore options" about police, bars and restaurants sharing information about intoxicated patrons.
The coroner's inquest jury also recommended that the provincial public safety minister and police should "expedite the implementation of current and upcoming technologies being explored that would aid in the de-escalation of critical situations, such as vehicle immobilization technologies."
The jury also recommended that the city of Castlegar should regularly review staffing levels "to ensure the community is adequately policed."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2023.
Darryl Greer, The Canadian Press