The calm of a relaxing tour through wine country was shattered for a couple who found themselves with a front row seat to a high speed gun battle between the occupants of a van being pursued by Mounties.
Gwen and Darren Fayant told the court about their view of the now infamous July 31 2012 chase that led police through West Kelowna into the outer reaches of Vernon, Monday as week two of Michael Ellis’s attempted murder trial got underway
Between 1:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on a “nice, warm sunny day,” the Fayants were at the end of Mission Hill Drive, where it intersects with Boucherie Road .
Gwen testified she was looking straight ahead, into the distance, when her attention sharply shifted right.
“I heard what sounded like fire crackers going off … or bubble wrap, actually,” she said.
Looking to see what the noise was coming from, she saw a lighter coloured van speeding along Boucherie, with two “ghost cars” in hot pursuit.
The cop cars had their emergency lights on and sirens followed soon after, she said. Then a second series of pops went off.
Immediately after police vehicles came to a stop in front of their vehicle, while the speeding van took off into the distance.
“A police officer got out right away and he was patting himself down to check if anything hit him,” she said, noting that he seemed “disoriented and concerned.”
The officer patting himself down was Cpl. Brian Harris, the court heard last week. He had been in pursuit of the van for four kilometers before several shots struck his vehicle, including one that pierced the window. In the car behind him was Const. Mike Phillion.
The Fayants drove toward the officer and asked if he was OK. They then drove on around 100 feet ahead, parked and gave their contact information, in case it would be needed.
When asked if she could recognize the driver of the van within the courtroom Monday, Gwen said “no.”
Her husband Darren, however, named Ellis the driver.
Other than that disparity, their accounts of the events that day were very similar: There was a man with lighter hair at the wheel of a van speeding ahead of two police cars.
They heard four to five shots fired in quick succession and saw two police cars pull over as the van sped away. The bullets, they both said, seemed to come from the van.
When asked what the impact of the series of event was, Darren said “great.”
“At first I was shocked it happened—I was nervous, shaking,” he said. “To this day I can see … it clearly in my mind. It’s something I’ll never forget. It was traumatic. I’ve never seen or heard anybody be shot at.”
Ellis is charged with 22 offences, including five counts of attempted murder. The trial is scheduled for four more weeks.