Closing arguments begin in B.C. trial of man accused of driving into residential school march

Closing arguments have begun in the trial of a B.C. man accused of driving into people holding a march memorializing residential schools two years ago.

Richard Manuel is charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, after the RCMP alleges his vehicle made “contact” with four people during the June 4 march in Mission, B.C.

The incident sent two people to hospital with minor injuries. Witnesses told Global News in 2022 the driver had been honking his horn and trying to get around other cars.

Click to play video: 'Trial begins for man accused of driving into B.C. residential school march'

Trial begins for man accused of driving into B.C. residential school march

The court has previously heard about 150 people were making their way from Mission’s Heritage Park to the site of the former St. Mary’s Residential School and were on Lougheed Highway when the incident happened.

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The Crown alleges that Manuel was angry and upset about the road being blocked, and drove dangerously in response.

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“Mr. Manuel did drive dangerously and was not in a situation where he had no alternative but to continue driving through the parade,” prosecutor Jim Barbour told the court.

The Crown argues that Manuel was the aggressor in the altercation, and wasn’t in imminent danger.

Manuel’s lawyer contended there were differing accounts of what happened, and that prosecutors had failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Manuel, who is now living in Nova Scotia, has admitted to being behind the wheel at the time, but his lawyer told the court he pulled over to see what was happening.

Click to play video: 'RCMP say ‘Impatient’ driver strikes 4 bypassing residential school march in Mission'

RCMP say ‘Impatient’ driver strikes 4 bypassing residential school march in Mission

The court heard testimony from witnesses that a flagger from the march approached Manuel from the driver’s side and told him to stop. The court also heard that another man confronted him from the passenger side, and entered the vehicle in an attempt to grab his keys.

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His lawyer told the court Manuel was frightened during a violent roadside interaction.

“He was not looking for a fight that day,” lawyer Christopher Terepocki said. “They were in his vehicle, they were accosting him. There were punches thrown.”

Manuel declined to comment outside the court, but did take the stand in his own defence where he denied hitting anyone.

That testimony is disputed by two march participants who testified Manuel struck them with the truck.

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“He slowed down only briefly it looked like before continuing on and hitting me the moment of impact I had no choice to react to either jump up or go underneath the truck so I had jumped up and ended up rolling over the hood,” alleged victim Jeremy Kaastra told Global News in a previous interview.

Flagger Troy Zelasco testified Manuel spoke directly to him, saying, “We need to stop all this marching bulls–t.”

Another witness testified that Manuel had asked the march flagger whether the group had a permit.

Abbotsford Provincial Court Judge has reserved her decision in the case until after June 10.

Manuel has applied to attend the verdict by video from Nova Scotia.


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