Christopher Cornell swears he couldn’t have been the one firing at a police car two years ago, because at the time of the shooting he was hidden in the bush.
The 31-year-old took the stand in his own defence Wednesday and Thursday at his Supreme Court of Yukon attempted murder trial.
He is facing multiple charges including two counts of attempted murder, one connected to Haines Junction RCMP Cpl. Kim MacKellar and the other to deputy conservation officer Shane Oakley.
He is also charged with assaulting the custodian at the local general store in Haines Junction and attempting to steal a safe.
The Crown is alleging Cornell and his fiancee, Jessica Johnson, robbed Madley’s General Store in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 2011.
Then, say prosecutors, they were interrupted by MacKellar and Oakley in a marked RCMP vehicle and fled, leading a chase down the Alaska Highway that ended with a bullet shot through the police vehicle’s window and MacKellar injured.
Cornell insists he doesn’t know anything about that.
He wasn’t in the speeding Chevy Blazer, he said.
He didn’t break into Madley’s General Store and assault Frank Parent, he said.
He didn’t shoot a rifle, he said.
Cornell testified that on Sept. 25, 2011 – the night before MacKellar was injured – he and Johnson were in their basement apartment in Whitehorse looking to score drugs.
Cornell told the jury of 14 he’s a drug addict and has been for many years.
In 2011, he was addicted to cocaine as well as opiates including morphine, dilaudid and heroin, he said.
While things like marijuana, cocaine and pills are easy to get in Whitehorse, heroin is harder, he told the court.
On the day in question, both he and Johnson wanted heroin, he said.
Cornell testified the pair was picked up by a friend, Harold John, who agreed to take them to the Mendenhall area to get the drugs.
He described using drugs at various points during that night and early hours of the 26th.
When they arrived in the area, Cornell claims John left he and Johnson by the side of the road and went in the black Chevy Blazer to do the transaction on his own.
After about 20 minutes Johns returned, Cornell said, but now he was driving a different vehicle – a Suzuki Sidekick – and a different man was driving the Blazer.
The man in the SUV kept driving and the remaining trio stayed with the Sidekick and started getting high.
About 20 minutes later, they decided to go after the drug dealer, later identified only as “Rider,” to try and buy more, Cornell testified.
When they caught up to him at a gas station near Haines Junction, the dealer agreed, but wanted someone to go with him. Cornell testified that his fiancee volunteered.
They agreed to meet at a pullout along Kluane Lake, he said.
Cornell testified after the dealer and Johnson drove off in the Chevy Blazer, he and John drove to the home of Tracy Kane, Johnson’s stepmother, to steal.
But when Kane opened the door and spotted them, the pair bolted and drove away in the Suzuki, he said.
They just wanted to get out of Haines Junction because they thought Kane was going to call the police, he insisted.
The Suzuki started having car troubles so Cornell and John pulled over, he said.
They did more of the drugs they had with them.
That’s when, Cornell says, he spotted police lights in the rearview mirror.
“I thought someone was chasing us because of Tracy Kane,” he told the court.
Cornell said he ran into the bush and thought John was behind him.
Cornell said he “heard a loud noise,” dropped down to the moss and watched from the bushes.
The court has already heard that after MacKellar was injured he and Oakley spotted a Suzuki Sidekick with a man inside, who they took back to the detachment.
Cornell says he watched the vehicle turn around and take John away.
He testified that he never saw the SUV the police were chasing.
He said he did not see a rifle and did not see Johnson.
Cornell walked along the tree line, heading toward Kluane Lake when he came across Johnson in the Blazer getting high, he said.
There was a rifle outside the vehicle. Cornell said he picked it up, hoping to sell it for drugs.
“Had you shot that rifle at a police car?” his lawyer, David Tarnow, asked.
“No,” Cornell said.
The jury has heard of multiple .375 H&H bullets collected during the investigation, including one police say they found in Cornell’s pocket.
On the stand, Cornell denied ever putting the ammunition there.
He told the jury that he and Johnson began walking away from the SUV. They would later be picked up by a passing van and taken to the Pine Lake campground where they were arrested.
The cross examination of Cornell became heated when prosecutor Keith Parkkari criticized Cornell’s version of events.
Justice Leigh Gower took the rare step of instructing the jury to disregard part of the cross examination when it came out that Cornell has a tattoo that reads: Fuck the Police.
The revelation came as Parkkari was questioning Cornell on his feelings towards police.
While Cornell insisted he had nothing against the police, Parkkari suggested a more accurate sentiment would be “Fuck the police.”
“Why, because I have a tattoo that says ‘Fuck the Police,’?” Cornell replied.
“Well, do you?” the lawyer replied.
“Yes,” Cornell said.
Gower told the jury they must disregard this evidence entirely.
He said they must not use it to conclude that Cornell is a person of bad character and therefore must have committed the crimes he is accused of.
Before those questions, Parkkari also questioned Cornell on his claims it took 45 minutes to an hour to travel on foot from where the Suzuki was stopped to Johnson in the Blazer, 12 kilometres away.
The prosecutor also repeatedly questioned Cornell about why he didn’t ask his fiancee what happened after finding her in the wrecked SUV.
Cornell said it was difficult to get information out of Johnson because she was high.
Cornell was the only witness for the defence. The jury will hear closing arguments Tuesday.
Contact Ashley Joannou at