Aug 27 2008
Officer's version of Tait shooting disputed
New Westminster Const. Todd Sweet's version of events was challenged at the inquest into the 2005 fatal shooting of Surrey teenager Kyle Tait.
Cameron Ward, the lawyer representing the Tait family, spent the afternoon of the inquest's second day disputing Sweet's credibility, saying his official statement to investigators, which came 17 days after the shooting, does not mesh with the known events of the night.
"Sir, I put forward that you took those 17 days and used them to carefully construct a version of what happened that would withstand scrutiny," Ward said to Sweet in the closing minutes of Tuesday's testimony.
"He cannot be telling the truth about what happened," Ward said addressing the coroner and jury.
Tait was shot and killed by Sweet in August 2005 after a chase that had led through the streets of New Westminster and Burnaby. The 16-year-old was a passenger in a stolen sport utility vehicle that had sped away from a police road block. New West police chased the SUV to Burnaby where Sweet used his car to block its path.
Police allege the driver, Ian Campbell, rammed the passenger door of Sweet vehicle's and was preparing to hit the car again before Sweet opened fire, killing Tait and wounding the driver.
During his testimony, Sweet said his chief reason for shooting at the SUV was to protect the recruit he was partnered with, Const. Gareth Blount.
"At that point, I [was] extremely concerned about my partner," Sweet said. "I was concerned because I figured his first impulse would be to try to get out of the passenger side.
"I knew that if [Campbell] started coming towards me, I was going to have to stop him."
When Sweet returned to his vehicle after firing three shots through the windshield and driver's window, he was surprised to see Blount was no longer there and could not explain how or when he got out of the passenger seat.
Tait's family questions whether Blount was in the car at all during the pursuit.
Sweet also testified he did not know there were other passengers in the vehicle, despite a warning that had gone out on the police radio from other officers in the pursuit.
Ward also suggested to Sweet that it was against New Westminster Police Service policy to pursue a vehicle not being sought for a serious offence into Burnaby.
Sweet justified continuing the chase saying more was at stake than simply a suspect fleeing the scene.
"We were after someone who had committed an assault on a police officer with a weapon," Sweet said, referring to Campbell evading police at the road block and nearly hitting an officer on the scene.
"We are trained to stop a threat ... if it is appropriate to shoot at a vehicle to stop a threat, that's what you do."
Ward is scheduled to finish his cross-examination of Sweet on Wednesday morning. Testimony at the inquest is scheduled to wrap after Labour Day.
At the end of the inquest, the jury of three men and four women will make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.
- By Brent Richter
© Copyright 2007 Surrey North Delta Leader