Charges dropped against rural Alberta homeowner accused of shooting trespasser

All charges have been dropped against a rural Alberta homeowner accused of shooting a trespasser on his property near Okotoks.

Eddie Maurice, 33, was charged after a suspected thief was wounded when shots were fired on Maurice’s property on Feb. 24.

On Friday morning at the Okotoks courthouse, Crown prosecutor Jim Sawa withdrew charges of aggravated assault, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm. He conceded there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction. 

Maurice spoke to reporters outside a short time later.

“I never really have had to encounter or endure anything like this. It’s just overwhelming the people who have taken the time just to come out and support this,” he said.

Supporters have rallied at each of Maurice’s previous court appearances, framing the case around the issue of rural landowners’ rights to defend their property.

The situation fuelled debate about how far rural landowners can go when faced with those situations. 

The shooting on Maurice’s property occurred weeks after a Saskatchewan farmer was found not guilty after killing a young Indigenous man who had driven onto his property with a group of friends.

Gerald Stanley had been charged with second-degree murder after shooting Colten Boushie in the head in August 2016. That case had inflamed tensions Canada-wide between Indigenous populations and rural landowners. 

Defence lawyer Tonii Roulston had previously said she wanted to see the charges against Maurice withdrawn or stayed.

Suspected thief charged 

Police were called to Maurice’s property at about 5 a.m. MT on Feb. 24 for reports of shots being fired. Maurice told officers he saw someone rummaging through his vehicles

Two people fled the scene but one suspect was located soon after, suffering from an injury.

Ryan Watson, who had been shot in the arm, was charged with trespassing, mischief and theft. 

Rural property crime is a growing issue across the Prairies.  

The province recently announced increased funding of $10 million to address rural crime. 

Police urging people not to engage with trespassers, rather to immediately report incidents but rural residents feel police response times are often too slow.



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