Peter Khill, charged with second-degree murder, leaves court in Hamilton on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

Jury acquits Ontario homeowner in fatal shooting of unarmed Indigenous man

Peter Khill, 28, admitted he shot Jon Styres but said he fired in self-defence, believing Styres was about to shoot him.

Indigenous leaders said Wednesday they were shocked and disappointed by a Hamilton jury’s decision to acquit a local homeowner in the shooting death of a Six Nations man who broke into his truck at night.

Peter Khill, 28, had admitted he killed Jon Styres around 3 a.m. on Feb. 4, 2016, but pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, saying he fired in self-defence when he thought Styres was pointing a gun at him.

Styres, a 29-year-old father of two from Ohsweken, Ont., on the Six Nations reserve, did not have a gun at the time of the shooting, the trial heard.

The mother of Styres’s children broke into loud sobs and had to leave the courtroom after the jury delivered its verdict.

The Six Nations Elected Council called on the Crown to appeal the trial’s outcome.

“How can Indigenous people have faith in the relationship with Canada when the justice system fails to hold anyone accountable for the taking of a life?” Elected Chief Ava Hill said in a statement.

Khill’s trial garnered attention for its similarities to a recent Saskatchewan case, in which white farmer Gerald Stanley was acquitted in the shooting death of young Indigenous man Colten Boushie.

“Jonathan Styres, Colten Boushie (and other Indigenous victims) were all born with mothers and fathers, raised as children with hopes and dreams and were loved as adults with families and responsibilities,” Hill said. “It is unfathomable that their tragic deaths are unanswered by the Canadian justice system.”

Related: Saskatchewan farmer acquitted in death of Indigenous man guilty of gun charge

Related: BC Aboriginals: ‘There are two systems of justice in this country’

Khill remained stoic as the verdict was read out. Once the proceedings were finished, he embraced his tearful wife, who is six months pregnant with the couple’s first child.

His lawyer said later Khill told him he was grateful for the verdict.

“He said, ‘I just want to thank the jury for the way they dealt with the evidence and in addition thank family and friends for their support,’” Jeffrey Manishen told reporters outside court.

The legal proceedings had been particularly stressful for Khill and his wife, Melinda Benko, the lawyer said.

“Even the issue of deciding to get married not that long before the trial, that was certainly one they had to consider, but I think their support for one another is very strong,” Manishen said.

Styres’s family said they would not comment or answer questions about the trial or its outcome.

The trial heard that Khill and Benko awoke to the sound of banging outside their rural home early on a February morning in 2016. Khill looked out the window and saw Styres inside his truck, the jury heard. Khill loaded his shotgun, left the home through the back door and went to confront Styres, court heard.

At trial Khill testified that he had yelled at Styres to put his hands up and fired as Styres began to turn towards him. Styres was facing sideways with his hands at waist height when he was shot, Crown lawyer Steve O’Brien told the jury.

Only after Khill fired two shots at Styres did Benko call 911.

The Crown argued at trial that Styres did not pose a reasonable threat to Khill and Benko while they were inside their locked home, and that Khill should have called 911 and waited for police rather than run out of the house with a loaded shotgun.

Manishen told the jury Khill was simply following his training as a military reservist to “neutralize” a threat to his life.

“Soldiers react proactively, that’s how they are trained,” Manishen said in his closing address. “Mr. Khill said that’s why he acted the way he acted. To take control of the situation.”

After the verdict, Manishen told reporters he thought Khill’s military service was a central point of the trial, and was significant to determining whether Khill had acted reasonably to defend himself under the circumstances.

Superior Court Justice Stephen Glithero told the jury that self-defence can be justified by the reasonable belief that a person is being threatened, whether or not that threat actually exists.

The jury was also given the option of finding Khill guilty of manslaughter if they decided he had not acted in self-defence but had also not meant to kill or inflict potentially deadly harm on Styres. In the end, jurors found Khill not guilty of both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Manishen told the jury in his closing arguments that race played no part in the case, as Khill could not possibly have known Styres was Indigenous given how dark it was at the time of the shooting and how quickly events unfolded.

He also noted after the verdict that potential jurors had been asked if they could be impartial given Khill and Styres’ races — a measure he said put him at ease about the issue of bias.

“(It) was, in my view, an excellent approach to be able to dispel any concern about race playing any part in the case, recognizing it had nothing to do with the facts,” he said.

Peter Goffin , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Biologists discover another female calf in depleted South Purcell Mountain Caribou herd

Calf will be moved to Revelstoke maternity pens, then released

Man seriously hurt after police shooting near Nelson

Incident has been reported to provincial police watchdog

Snow storm hits East Kootenay

Fernie expected to get the most accumulation at roughly 20-25 centimetres by the end of the day

Vigil in Kimberley for lost caribou herd

With removal of last females herd is effectively gone

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Most Read