January 09, 2015 - 5:33 PM
"THE CASE BECOMES STRONGER WITH EACH PASSING KILOMETRE."
KELOWNA – Was Michael Ellis only doing what he was told when he led police on a high speed shootout along Westside Road in 2012 or is his friend and former co-accused taking the blame because he knows it can’t affect his sentence?
That was the focus of the first day of final submissions in the Kelowna Supreme Court trial of Michael Ellis, 41, a Kelowna man facing years in prison for armed robbery, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and multiple counts of attempted murder.
Over the course of the trial that began in September last year, Crown called numerous witnesses and entered roughly 100 pieces of evidence. Defence lawyer John Gustafson called only one witness, Shawn Wysynski, an admitted friend of Ellis and one of the four people in the van with him when they were arrested July 31, 2012.
After weeks of conflicting testimony from Crown witnesses, Gustafson put Wysynski on the stand. He told Justice Ian Josephson he forced Ellis at gunpoint to “drive like a maniac” to get away from police when the group was spotted near Boucherie Road in West Kelowna.
It took police over an hour to chase the accused from Boucherie to Swan Lake junction north of Vernon. During that time, gunfire was exchanged, police cars were rammed repeatedly, flaggers and pedestrians’ lives were put in danger, three people were carjacked and Ashley Collins was shot by police.
Defence says Wysynski, who is currently serving nine years in federal prison for using a loaded gun to carjack one motorist and attempting to carjack another, ordered Ellis at gunpoint to get away from police that day.
“There is no evidence (Ellis) ever fired a firearm at anyone,” Gustafson said, adding that he was careful not to hit flaggers along the way.
Crown lawyer Murray Kaay says the body of evidence points to Ellis as being a willing accomplice from before the chase started when the foursome arrived at a house in West Kelowna with loaded guns in an attempt to collect on a $400,000 drug debt.
“The case becomes stronger with each passing kilometre,” he says. “(Ellis) aided the shooter by facilitating his escape.”
Kaay rejected the defence's claim that Ellis never had a chance to escape from the vehicle, pointing out that there were several instances where Ellis and Ashley Collins were left in the vehicle with a loaded gun while Wysynski attempted to carjack a vehicle.
“(Ellis) waited for Mr. Wysynski to return to the van,” he said. “This was a perfect time for Mr. Ellis to make his escape. It’s a total mystery why he refused to do this.”
Ashley Collins, who was hiding in the bed of one of the hijacked vehicles, was shot during the chase. She was given a suspended sentence with 18 months probation as well as a five-year ban on owning firearms. The fourth accomplice, Joseph Elie, was along as muscle but was able to jump from the moving vehicle shortly after Wysynski first fired at police. He was never arrested or charged.
A decision on Ellis is expected in the coming weeks.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015