Tearful testimony from Kelowna man who threw fatal Cactus Club one-punch | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Tearful testimony from Kelowna man who threw fatal Cactus Club one-punch

Zach Gaudette was visiting from Ontario Feb. 17, 2016, when he got involved in an altercation outside a Kelowna Cactus Club restaurant.
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June 22, 2017 - 1:25 PM

KELOWNA – Is the man who threw a punch that killed an Ontario tourist last year a hero who was protecting those around him from a dangerous threat or an overzealous thug who took advantage of an intoxicated man?

That’s the decision a Kelowna jury will have to make after closing arguments in Cory Van Gilder’s manslaughter trial.

Van Gilder, 26, took the stand in his own defence today, June 22, and sobbed loudly when recounting his decision to strike Zach Gaudette the evening of Feb. 17, 2016.

“As soon as he turned towards me I hit him,” he told the 12 members of the jury.

Van Gilder’s testimony coincided with video evidence and with three other witnesses who testified in the last week, including a friend he was with and two young men who said they thought Van Gilder was protecting them. All say they were outside the busy Cactus Club restaurant when an intoxicated and irrational Gaudette approached, unprovoked, and challenged bystanders to fight.

Van Gilder would ultimately hit Gaudette under the left ear, causing a brain bleed that killed him days later. 

Crown prosecutor Andrew Vandersluys asked Van Gilder, who has three years’ training in Brazilian jiu jitsu, why he didn’t just restrain the man.

Van Gilder says when he heard Gaudette challenge an entire crowd of strangers to fight, he assumed he had a weapon.

“It all happened so quickly,” he said. “My adrenaline was through the roof. He kept moving. He wasn’t slowing down. I did not want to grapple with this guy. I didn’t know if he had a weapon on him.”

Van Gilder first began training in martial arts at 12 years old but gave it up until he graduated high school and began working in Fort McMurray in 2008. He testified he trained in jiu jitsu “on and off” for three and a half years after and competed in one mixed martial arts fight in 2010. He says he hasn’t trained or fought since.

“I didn’t want to hurt the guy,” he said. “I didn’t think that he was seriously injured. I didn’t know a punch like that could hurt someone so severely.”

Final submissions are expected this afternoon.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 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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