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Accused shooter goes to trial

More than two years after bullets flew and police chased three people through West Kelowna, the trial for Michael Edward Ellis began in Kelowna Supreme Court Tuesday with Crown counsel Murray Kaay calling the first of nearly 40 witnesses to the stand. 

Ellis is facing 22 charges ranging from several counts of pointing a firearm, to fleeing a peace officer, to attempted murder. He pleaded not-guilty to all 22 counts.

Kaay described how shortly after 1 p.m. on July 31, 2012, RCMP tried to pull over a grey Dodge Caravan on Boucherie Road. The occupants of the van allegedly fired shots at police which kicked off a chase that spanned 80 kilometres up Westside Road.

Kaay said a key witness would be a person who Ellis allegedly shot at and who called in Ellis' license plate number. 

After several carjackings, including a failed attempt on a blue Subaru with a woman and child inside, the chase ended with a black truck hitting a spike belt near the Swan Lake interchange by Vernon. 

Ellis is alleged to have fled the vehicle and was chased down by an RCMP K9 unit, suffering some injuries from the police dog that aided in his arrest.

Kaay told Justice Ian Josephson that there would be over 100 exhibits in the trial which is expected to take five weeks. 

Of special note, Kaay said that Ellis was wearing a glove when he was captured, which was "unusual for that time of year," and important because none of Ellis' fingerprints were found on any of the exhibits. 

Evidence includes dashcam video footage from several police cars as well as cell phone video footage from one of the witnesses.

The first witness for the prosecution, was an RCMP officer who brought a blue hand-truck stacked with evidence boxes into the court room.

Items on the cart included:

  • Several .22 calibre casings
  • rounds and bullet fragments from the multiple scenes of the crime
  • a sawn-off .22 calibre rifle
  • a black balaclava-style face covering
  • Shards of tinted glass, allegedly from a window of the van shot out by the accused, were also entered

Defence counsel John Gustafson was quiet for much of the morning's proceedings, speaking to his client twice and asking to see a .22 magazine, entered as exhibit 14, before it was entered into evidence.

Tattoos extended past the left wrist of the red jumpsuit worn by Ellis, 41, whose short brown hair is speckled with grey. Ellis sat quietly in the defendant's box occasionally shaking his head as .22 calibre rounds were entered as evidence, at one point laughing softly under his breath. 

This is not Ellis' first time in court. In 2011 Ellis had numerous charges against him thrown out by BC Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan, who said the 31 months he spent in jail awaiting trial was unjustifiable and violated his rights.

He was awaiting trial for a 2008 incident similar to the more recent police chase.

Ashley Collins, one of the co-accused with Ellis, was injured by a gunshot during the chase. She and Shawn Adam Wysynski, the other accused, have already pleaded guilty to several charges. They have not yet been sentenced.

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