UPDATE: Kelowna man was protecting friend when he fatally swung hammer - InfoNews

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UPDATE: Kelowna man was protecting friend when he fatally swung hammer

Christopher Ausman's body was found on the sidewalk in the 100 block of Highway 33 early in the morning on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2014.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Facebook
June 03, 2019 - 4:51 PM

KELOWNA - When Steven Pirko fatally swung his hammer into Chris Ausman's head, he didn't intend to kill him.

Pirko told jurors Monday, June 3, he was just trying to protect his friend, Elrich Dyck.

"He's like my brother," Pirko said, testifying in his own defense about the events of Jan. 25, 2014.  "He was calling for help. I had to do something."

Pirko, 26, who is, who is of Irish and Metis-Native descent, said he's lived in Kelowna with his mother and younger brother since he was four-years-old. He met the Dyck family when he was 14 and he spent a lot of time with brothers Willie and Elrich. Pirko also said Elrich's dad Leslie filled a father role in his life. His biological father has not been present in his life.

"They're like my family," he said. "I love them."

Elrich Dyck testified earlier in the trial and offered a convoluted story about the events of Jan. 25, 2014. When asked about Elrich's testimony Monday, Pirko said his long-time friend seems to have changed.

"His mental state is not what (it) was," Pirko said.

He too has changed. Today, Pirko is heavy-set and clean-shaven. As he testified, he wore the yellow dress shirt and tie he's donned throughout the trial.  It's a far cry from how he appeared in videos from his 2016 interrogation. At that time he was very thin, wearing baggy clothes and a ballcap.

Pirko admitted to being a drug addict, confessing to using crystal meth, heroin, and alcohol, often drinking five or six times a week in 2014. He said he's currently on methadone. He was in withdrawal when police took him into custody in 2016.

The night of the hammer attack was no different. When asked by his lawyer, Pirko said he went to a party at Dyck's house and his drunkenness level by the time he left was an eight out of 10.

 He'd gone there with a bag full of clothes and an iPod Touch. He also brought a hammer.

Watt asked Pirko why he would bring a hammer to a party and Pirko said an ex-girlfriend's then-boyfriend had threatened to beat him up and mace him with bear spray.

"I wasn't a big dude," he said. "I was scared. I was carrying (the hammer) for protection."

The boyfriend wasn't at the party, but Pirko was worried he would run into him.

Pirko left the party with a friend to go to a Petro Canada. Along the way, they met Elrich and they decided to go to a nearby 7-Eleven. Pirko said the friend left and Elrich started yelling across the street. Pirko looked away for a moment and when he looked back he saw a man, who turned out to be Ausman, running across the road.

Ausman and Elrich immediately started fighting. Pirko said he was standing behind Ausman in shock. Ausman pushed Elrich against a brick wall and started wailing on him. Pirko claims Elrich called out for help.

Pirko said he was much smaller than Ausman and so, in the heat of the moment, he swung his hammer at Ausman's back leg twice, but nothing happened. Pirko claims Elrich, who Pirko claims knew he was carrying a hammer, said, "hit him in the head."

Pirko did just that, hitting Ausman twice in the skull with the tool. Ausman slumped to the ground and the pair ran off. Pirko immediately thought Ausman was dead.

"I felt horrible," he said.

An autopsy revealed Ausman died of a skull fracture.

Pirko said he threw the hammer onto the roof of an IGA because he didn't want to be reminded about what had happened.

Earlier in the day, jurors heard that Ausman was worked up over a poker game on the night he was killed.

Ryan Caig, a friend of Ausman's, testified  Monday, June 3 that after a night of drinking Ausman became upset when he lost a poker game at the party and at one point he had to tell him to calm down. 

Caig said he saw Ausman leave the party between midnight and 12:30 a.m., saying he was going to catch a taxi. Caig also said Ausman's phone was dead.

Ausman's body was found near the Rutland 7-Eleven in the early hours of Jan. 25, 2014. In 2016, Pirko confessed to police that he hit Ausman in the head several times with a hammer.

Caig was the first witness in the defense of Pirko.

The trial is in its fourth week.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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