Saw 'life leave his eyes'

A key Crown witness in a second-degree murder trial took the stand in Kelowna court Thursday and described the night Chris Ausman was killed.

The high-profile trial began on May 1, more than five years after Ausman's lifeless body was found on the sidewalk of Highway 33, and two and a half years after Steven Pirko was arrested.

The Crown says Pirko struck Ausman with a hammer, killing him, after Pirko's friend Elrich Dyck began losing a fight with Ausman in the early hours of Jan. 25, 2014.

On Thursday, Dyck said he's been friends with Pirko since they were 13 or 14 years old, and that Pirko is "still my little bro."

Dyck told the jury the altercation with Ausman started as a misunderstanding. He and Pirko had left Dyck's brother's birthday party to get chicken at 7-Eleven.

Dyck said the pair had been drinking Bacardi 151 at the party that night, a now-discontinued liquor that was 75.5 per cent alcohol by volume, but he said they “weren't fall-over drunk.”

Surveillance footage shows Ausman run across Highway 33 towards Pirko and Dyck at 1:39 a.m. The Crown has suggested Dyck's body language in the video leading up to this moment shows Dyck had been trying to pick a fight. Pirko told police Dyck had been “egging people on” during their entire walk, but Dyck told a different story.

“(Ausman) might have misheard something,” Dyck told the jury Thursday. “Me and Pirko were yelling. He might have thought... I don't know. It was a big confusion, that's all it was, wrong place, wrong time.”

Dyck said Ausman grabbed him by the belt and began repeatedly hitting him. He claims he never threw a punch of his own. Later in his testimony, Dyck says he suffered no injuries in the altercation: “no bruises, no broken bones, no nothing.”

Dyck said he became “immobilized” and yelled out for Pirko's help as he was getting hit. He saw Pirko attack Ausman's legs, and then his head, but he testified he didn't know Pirko had used a hammer.

“As I'm still looking at Chris, I seen his life leave his eyes," Dyck said. "I seen his eyes close and then he swung around and hit the ground."

During his confession to police in November 2016, Pirko said Dyck stood above Ausman and hit him twice in the face as he lay motionless on the ground. Dyck testified he never touched Ausman after he dropped, and he and Pirko fled the scene.

Crown prosecutor David Grabavac asked him why he didn't call an ambulance.

“We were scared, we were intoxicated, we ran,” Dyck replied. “We were kids. We still are.”

The next morning, Dyck said he told a friend what had happened, while crying “like a little baby.” He also told his sister about the incident later that day.

Both Dyck and Pirko were identified as suspects by police a few days later, but the pair weren't arrested until almost three years later in November 2016. Dyck was released without charge.

Dyck's testimony is expected to continue Friday.

– with files from Alanna Kelly

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