Okotoks farmer accused of shooting trespasser greeted by cheers outside court
An Okotoks landowner accused of shooting and injuring a man that he found prowling on his farm in February was greeted by the cheers of his many supporters at his scheduled court appearance on Friday.
On February 24, RCMP was called to Edouard Maurice’s farm for reports of gunshots heard on the property.
He told the responding officers that he had opened fire on two people he found prowling around some vehicles.
The suspects had fled the scene shortly afterwards, but police eventually located one of them, 41-year-old Ryan Watson, suffering from a gunshot wound to his arm.
Several charges were filed against Maurice in connection with the shooting, including aggravated assault.
On Friday, dozens of his supporters, who are rural landowners themselves, gathered outside the Okotoks courthouse, promoting the message that Maurice has the right to defend his land.
Gwen Wiedemann says she’s known Jessie, Eddie’s wife, since before she was born, so their family is like an extension of hers.
She says that they are getting a ‘raw deal’ from the justice system.
“Why do the criminals have all the rights? It doesn’t seem fair to me. They’re telling us that if we live in the country that we should get gates and lock them. We become prisoners on our own land because of criminals.”
Cory Morgan, who lives in the same area as the Maurice family, says he’s been suffering under the same problem of rural crime for some time now.
“All of us feel that we could have been in his shoes just as easily as anybody else and they seem to be dragging this out for the family and we want to see some resolution. We’re letting people know that we’re not letting it go. It’s not done; we’re not going to let this quietly fade.”
Zena Branson says that the justice system is ‘broken’ and they deserve a lot more rights than they’re getting.
“We deserve the right to protect our property and our families and I’m here to support that.”
Branson says that the police need to do more about the thieves in the area because if the pair weren’t prowling on Maurice’s farm in the first place, this situation would never have taken place.
“Nothing is happening to them. The property owners are paying all the consequences; the thieves, nothing.”
As for the court appearance, Maurice’s lawyer Tonii Roulston says the matter was adjourned because the Crown still has not provided the disclosure that she needs for the case.
“We’re still waiting, I anticipate, for a report regarding the firearm and any sort of forensics relating to that. Contrary to what was suggested in court, we cannot take the next step until we actually have that report.”
She calls the delay to produce the report ‘frustrating’ but not unusual.
“Especially since the police spent over 24 hours on the property and so we expected the report. However, in fairness to the Crown, it’s not unusual for us to be waiting for a report. We also needed to wait for the other disclosure that we should have got earlier, in my opinion.”
Roulston says the family just wants the opportunity to move on from the situation.
“They are not asking for this attention. These charges do carry an incarceratory sentence. This isn’t just house arrest and a slap on the wrist, which the complainants are charged with, these charges are very serious. So there is a real likelihood of jail time in the event that he is convicted.”
Jessica Maurice says her family is scared by the whole proceedings especially because they don’t know how long it will take but all the support helps.
“If this does go to a full trial, it could be a couple years, at least, before this is resolved and we don’t know what the end result is going to be. In the meantime, it’s been really wonderful to have all the support. I don’t think we would be handling it so well if we didn’t have all the support behind us, both people that we know, friends and family, and strangers, people we’ve never even met.”
She says that they’ve also been getting messages of support from all over the country that have also been helpful.
Roulston says that when the time comes, her client will choose to be tried by a judge and jury. Edouard Maurice’s next court date is on May 18.
(With files from Kevin Green)