Was Michael Ellis just following orders given to him over the barrel of a gun when he careened down Westside Road with police in hot pursuit?
It’s what the first and only defence witness in Ellis’s attempted murder trial is claiming.
Shawn Wysynski testified Thursday and offered the court a completely different narrative about the events of July 31, 2012 than what had previously been laid out by Crown counsel.
In his version of events, he’s the ringleader of the plot that put police and civilians alike at risk. And Ellis was just an unarmed driver, merely following his commands.
Wysynski—who previously pleaded guilty to and was sentenced for attempted robbery and robbery charges relating to the chase—explained that he, Ellis, Ashley Collins and another friend had been at McDonalds after a four-day methamphetamine binge.
The binge, however, wasn’t the reason why they were together. They had a more pressing task at hand. Wysynski was going to collect on a $400,000 drug debt and Ellis had volunteered to be the driver. For that job, Wysynski said he’d brought along a large bag of guns and ammunition.
As they entered the parking lot of the West Kelowna McDonalds, Wysynski spotted a police car he believed to be following them.
“I sent Joseph in to get the food then I told (Ellis) we were being tailed,” said Wysynski.
Wysynski claims Ellis just thought he was high and being paranoid, but he persisted.
“We’re going to pull out of McDonalds, and the guy will avoid eye contact in and he’ll pull in behind us,” Wysynski told Ellis.
As they drove out of the McDonalds parking lot, Wysynski said his theory panned out.
He assumed they were tailing them because of the guns, and he quickly decided the best course of action, given his and Ellis’s lengthy criminal histories, was to run.
“I said ‘We need to get rid of these guns. Drive like a maniac, push people out of the way,'” he told the court. “My understanding is that police have to call off the chase when you put the public in danger.”
Ellis did just that.
“(He) turned his cap around, put both hands on the wheel and pushed the pedal to the floor,” said Wysynski, pointing out that they were on Boucherie Road at that point.
With two police cars tailing behind, Wysynski pulled out the .22 rifle with the folding stock.
“I thought I’d pop a couple shots in their grill and we’ll get away,” he said.
As he put the cartridge in the gun, he turned to Ashley Collins and told her to cover her ears.
Wysynski told the court he had no intention to injure the officers, and has some understanding of firearms. He claimed he chose the .22 because it wasn’t high caliber enough to shoot through the vehicle, and his aim was pretty reliable.
Growing up, he had experience with guns and was on the marksman team of the army cadets.
As his shots landed, the cars pulled over.
It appeared as though they were in the clear, but somewhere between Boucherie and Highway 97, Wysynski’s longtime friend, Joseph Elie, jumped from the vehicle and that angered him.
“If any of you other f—ers think you can outrun a bullet, try it,” he recalled telling Collins and Ellis. “If you bail, I’m shooting. We’re in this together and we’ll get out of it together.”
Wysynski told the court that his feelings of betrayal made him lethal.
“To me it seemed like I was in charge and everyone knew it at the time.”
As they continued to drive Wysynski heard on the police scanner that Bennett Bridge would soon be closed if they had tried to head into Kelowna. Their best tack, he decided, was Westside Road in a new car.
He told Ellis to pull in front of the next parked car they found, so they could transfer.
It was a blue Subaru, and Wysynski said that he was going to take it by force, but Collins pointed out that there was a child in the car, so they moved on.
They went on trying to take more cars, each time with Wysynski in charge, and armed.
By the time they caught up with police again, Wysynski was in the passenger side of a black truck and Ellis was still driving.
“At first I thought (the police car in front of us) would lead us through, but he started to slow down…. I leaned out the window and whipped off four to five shots and he kept coming,” he said.
Then he ordered Ellis to “ram him. F—ing move him” and Ellis complied.
Wysynski said he fired around eight shots at the RCMP truck, knowing that the gun would only do minimal damage.
Ultimately, however, police got the upper hand with a spike belt. As the black truck lost power, the two men made a run for it, with Collins laying in the box of the truck, wounded.
“I ran toward an RV, but it sped away,” he said. “Then I lay down with my arms out.”
Ellis was hit while running by a police car, and the two were taken into custody.
When asked if he and Ellis had discussed this storyline since their arrest, Wysynski said no. He was merely telling the facts as he remembered them, although he had taken notes during witness testimony at the preliminary hearing.
Crown Counsel Murray Kaay wondered why he never anted up these details before he was sentenced for the lesser charges, and Wysynski said that when he was offered a deal to plead guilty to attempted armed robbery and robbery charges he was happy to take it.
Those charges came with a significantly lesser sentence to the attempted murder charges he’d faced alongside Ellis before the deal was struck.
And with the Charter and the Canada Evidence Act, what Wysynski says in one hearing can’t be used against him in another.
Closing arguments in the case should start today. Ellis is facing 22 charges, five of which are attempted murde