A man who broke into a rural Kootenay home in October 2019 and fired on RCMP officers has been found guilty on four charges, but avoided two counts of attempted murder.
Judge Philip Seagram brought an end to the weeks-long trial in a Nelson provincial courtroom by finding Harry Richardson guilty Monday on charges of reckless discharge of a firearm, careless use of a firearm, unlawfully in a dwelling-house, and unlawful attempt to cause bodily harm.
Richardson had already previously plead guilty to resisting arrest.
But it was on two counts of attempted murder against RCMP officers, one of whom was shot by Richardson, that Seagram sided with the defendant.
Crown counsel Rebecca Smyth said she thought the verdict was fair.
“The decision was well reasoned and was consistent with the law and the facts,” said Smyth, “and all the facts the court relied upon to coming to that decision were justified and supported by the evidence.”
The incident, which featured 22 shots fired at police and an overnight standoff, shook Argenta, the small West Kootenay community located north of Kaslo.
Richardson was arrested on Oct. 11, 2019 after an overnight standoff.
The owner of 1221 Argenta Road was away, but a local resident looking after the house suspected someone was inside. When she called the residence, a man picked up and refused to leave. He told her police were hunting him, and that he had three guns. A double-barrel shotgun, a .22 calibre rifle and seven millimetre firearm were later discovered in the building.
The resident called RCMP, and it was at approximately 7 p.m. when Const. Shaun Kennedy and reserve Const. Darryl Hammond arrived.
Kennedy previously testified he had pursued Richardson in September for two outstanding arrest warrants.
Richardson popped out a window screen on the second floor to greet the officers, who told him he was being arrested. He then dropped gasoline out of the front window, tried to light it with a match and opened fire on the officers.
Hammond was later hit in his right hand, forearm and upper arm. The Crown had argued that warranted an attempted murder verdict, but Seagram said there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest Richardson intended to kill Hammond.
However, Seagram did change the charge to an attempt to cause bodily harm, which he found Richardson guilty of.
Richardson had also faced an attempted murder charge for firing at another officer, but Seagram said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove either intent to kill or how close the shots were. Seagram did however note Richardson fired at least 22 shots from the home, while police did not return fire once.
The standoff ended at dawn when Richardson slid down a rope from the second storey window only to be arrested in the nearby forest.
Smyth said she hopes the end of the trial provides some peace to Argenta residents.
“This was a very significant event for any community, in particular a small rural community like Argenta,” said Smyth. “The impact on that community has been evidenced by the local interest in it and the attendants in court with respect to watching the proceedings, which have been fairly lengthy.”
The prolonged trial that began in January was essentially a one-sided argument by the prosecution. The Crown called 36 witnesses, 34 of whom were officers. Richardson represented himself and called no witnesses or offered any evidence in his defence.
On Monday, Richardson said little from a cell at the Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver where he joined by video conference.
Although he was found not guilty on the two counts of attempted murder, Richardson will likely be sentenced to several years in jail. Canada’s criminal code says the mandatory minimum sentence for reckless discharge of a firearm is four years.
No date was set Monday for sentencing.
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