September 04, 2014 - 3:10 PM
KELOWNA – Details of the first few moments of a 2012 high speed chase and shootout with police along Westside Road included testimony in Kelowna Supreme Court from two plainclothes RCMP officers who say they were shot at from a vehicle driven by the accused, Michael Ellis.
Const. Mike Taylor and Const. Michael Philion of West Kelowna RCMP were parked on the corner of Boucherie Road and Gellatly Road shortly after 1 p.m. July 31, 2012.
They were in an unmarked van when a vehicle matching the description of a suspect minivan that evaded a traffic stop earlier that day turned the corner and passed directly in front of them.
“We looked at each other,” Taylor told Justice Ian Josephson. “I remember being able to see eyes and certainly the goatee.”
Philion says the driver, described as a heavy-set male with a dark complexion, gave him a “hard look” and sped off down Boucherie Road.
“It wasn’t a passing glance,” he says. “They were interested in who we were.”
Once the licence plate was confirmed as the suspects’ vehicle, the officers made a u-turn and began following. Soon after, Cpl. Brian Harris of the West Kelowna detachment pulled in front of them in an unmarked pickup truck and joined the chase.
Philion says the van began to accelerate “more than would be normal” and passed several vehicles, forcing oncoming traffic to swerve onto the shoulder of the narrow road.
At this time the officers discussed calling off the chase in the interest of public safety, but decided that due to the danger posed to the public, continued on, maintaining contact via radio with Cpl. Harris who was directly in front of them.
Philion estimates they were traveling at approximately 60 km/h and says he remembers that the rear window of the suspects van was still intact at this time. After several more minutes and just before reaching Green Bay Rd. he noticed the window of the van was broken at the same time he saw smoke come from the tires of Cpl. Harris’s pickup.
“Shots fired, shots fired,” Cpl. Harris shouted over the radio as he braked so hard his truck slid into the oncoming lane before stopping.
Neither Taylor nor Philion saw a weapon but Philion says they both noticed steam coming from the front of their own vehicle.
They pulled over behind Harris, fearing he may have been injured.
“I was concerned for his safety,” Philion says. “He was outside his vehicle and very agitated.”
Philion says Harris was running his hands over his body searching for injuries.
He estimates that it was only seconds between when he noticed the missing rear window and the call of shots fired.
Damage to the two police vehicles included an indentation on the front bumper and hood of Harris’s vehicle, as well as a hole through the windshield near where Harris’s head would have been. Damage was also found inside the vehicle only inches from where he sat. They also found a hole in the bumper of their own unmarked van and damage to the air conditioning unit.
The three officers stayed at the scene for approximately five or 10 minutes before Taylor and Philion returned to Red Cloud Way, where they believed they saw something thrown out the driver’s side window. There they waited for “quite a while” listening to the chase unfold over the radio.
Crown prosecutor Duncan Campbell asked Philion who he believes was driving when shots were fired.
“He’s in that box right there,” he said, pointing at Ellis.
Ellis, 41, faces more than a dozen charges, including attempted murder and several gun-related charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all of them.
Ellis and two others, Ashley Collins, 21, and Shawn Wysynski, 34, were all taken into custody near Vernon later that day. Collins and Wysynski pleaded guilty in June to charges of armed robbery and occupying a vehicle that contained a restricted firearm and will be sentenced later this year.
Ellis’s trial will continue over the coming weeks.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014