The man who led police on a high speed shootout from West Kelowna to the outer reaches of Vernon in the summer of 2012 has been acquitted of all attempted murder charges he faced.
Michael Ellis, 41, was however found guilty of a number of weapons and robbery charges relating to the events that put pedestrians, motorists and police alike in harm’s way, July 31, 2012.
In a decision released Friday, Justice Ian Josephson said that Ellis may have shot a a highway worker, rammed police vehicles and, at the very least, been aware of shots being fired at others by his passengers as they tore through the Okanagan in a series of vehicles they stole at gunpoint, but that doesn’t mean he wanted to kill anyone.
The closest Crown counsel came to proving Ellis attempted to murder anyone who got in his way, was when they presented to story of dog officer, Cpl. Gingras. Audio for that harrowing encounter was played in court and can be found YouTube.
In it, Gingras attempted to stay on the road as Ellis rammed into his vehicle, and bullets were punctured the vehicle.
“In attempting to remove Cpl. Gingras as an impediment to his escape form police, it is clear Mr. Ellis was willing to imperil his life to an extreme degree,” said Josephson. “However extreme recklessness endangering the life of Cpl. Gingras does not equate to an intent to kill. his intent was to escape police at all costs, even if those efforts resulted in the death of Cpl. Gingras. Thus, on the issue of intent to kill, a reasonable doubt arises and I find Mr. Ellis not guilty of these two counts.”
While he may not have decided to kill anyone during the shootout, Josephson rejected the idea that Ellis was without any culpability. He certainly wasn’t just a dupe, making rash and harmful decisions under the duress of one of his passengers.
That storyline was floated out by Shawn Adam Wysynski. Wysynski, who had already been sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in the shootout, told the court that he was the mastermind behind the shootout and Ellis was merely doing what he was told.
“I reject completely the submission that Ellis was acting under duress or that I should have a reasonable doubt in that regard,”said Josephson.
“The only evidence supporting that theory comes from Mr. Wysynski, which I reject as entirely false and unreliable. Mr. Wysynski, after securing his position with his own sentence, was attempting to throw a float ring to Mr. Ellis, who was drowning in the sea of overwhelming evidence against him.
“That evidence, which I accept, reveals that Mr. Ellis was a full and willing participant in this mad, misguided and extremely dangerous scheme to avoid detention by police. To that end, Mr. Ellis and Mr. Wysynski set out to terrorize innocent uninvolved civilians at gun point and were willing to endanger the lives of police officers or anyone else whom they perceived as a risk by discharging countless rounds of ammunition from a prohibited weapon at moving police and civilian vehicles from their own moving vehicle.”
Although it’s too early for lawyers to comment on their sentencing recommendations related to the convictions, Crown Counsel Murray Kaay asked that a Dangerous Offender assessment be conducted. Where that leads remains to be seen, but designation as a Dangerous Offender—which is rarely attained — does result in an indeterminate prison sentence.