In his more than two decades as a deputy conservation officer, Shane Oakley has likely never been involved in anything like this.
He was the passenger in a police car as it sped down the Alaska Highway in pursuit of an SUV.
The speeds hit 140 km/h at points as the two vehicles headed north from Haines Junction towards Destruction Bay, he told a Yukon Supreme Court trial this week.
The chase would end about 32 kilometres out of town, with the windshield of the police car broken and the RCMP officer injured.
Oakley gave his testimony this week at the trial of Christopher Cornell.
The Whitehorse man is facing a string of charges including two counts of attempted murder with a rifle. One is related to Oakley, while the other is for RCMP Cpl. Kim MacKellar.
Cornell is also charged with assaulting the custodian of Madley’s General Store using bear spray.
For Oakley, September 26, 2011 had not started out that way.
He told the jury he was in MacKellar’s vehicle after getting a call around 6:12 a.m. from a neighbour about a possible break-in in his Willow Acres subdivision of Haines Junction.
While investigating that, a call came in of a break-in at the community’s general store, he said.
After the police car pulled up, Oakley testified he saw two people sitting in a dark SUV.
The vehicle backed up, striking a guardrail in front of the store, and then drove forward, passing the police car, he told the jury.
About three kilometres out of town, the dark SUV was driving on the wrong side of the road when “stuff starts coming out” of the passenger-side door, Oakley said.
A generator, chainsaws, road markers, and the hindquarters of a deer were all jettisoned.
As the vehicles approached the end of the pursuit, Oakley testified they drove past another vehicle parked at the side of the road.
Around the same time, the back window of the SUV shattered.
Oakley told the court he glanced over at the vehicle parked at the side of the road, then looked back up when “the dash exploded on the RCMP vehicle.”
Then he looked at the officer beside him. “There was blood all over his face,” Oakley said.
MacKellar pulled over the vehicle, and Oakley helped him out and into the passenger’s seat, he testified.
“I don’t think he could see very well, he kept grasping at me.”
Oakley got in the driver’s side and turned the vehicle around back to Haines Junction.
The SUV they had been pursuing kept going north, he said.
Oakley testified that, while turning around, he saw someone slumped over the wheel of the vehicle the chase had passed earlier.
“I thought he got hurt in the incident,” he told the jury.
In fact, the man was not hurt, but smelled strongly of alcohol. Oakley placed him in the back seat of the RCMP cab and continued to the community, he said.
The vehicle was cold because the window was broken.
He got on the radio and called to have the nurses meet him at the nursing station.
Meanwhile, the officer in the other seat is getting “sluggish,” he testified, bleeding and pushing on his left shoulder.
“He kept repeating, ‘I’m alright, I’m alright,” Oakley said.
The RCMP vehicle eventually made it to the nurse’s station, blocks from the RCMP detachment and across from Madley’s General Store.
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Frank Parent called police that morning.
The custodian told the court he was mopping the general store when in noticed someone in a blue parka inside.
He initially thought it was a teenager, he testified.
Parent said he approached the person and held them lightly on the shoulders. “I said something like ‘we’re going to have to tell your parents what you’ve been doing.”
The person in the parka didn’t respond.
It was then, Parent testified, that he noticed a second person, this one in a light brown parka.
“I was wondering, ‘How am I going to contain these two young people so their parents can know?’” he said.
Next, Parent said, he saw a fist. “I was punched in the nose.”
The force was enough to knock him backwards. With his eyes closed, he heard someone – a male voice – say something about bear spray, he told the court.
“Once I opened my eyes all I could see was this yellow mist in my face.”
The 66-year-old described for the jury of five men and nine women “instantaneous burning and stinging” of his eyes and face.
Bleeding – he would eventually learn his nose had been broken – he stumbled to the washroom to try and wash away the pain before making it to a phone to call police.
Parent told the jury he went to the front door of the store hoping to meet officers, but instead saw two people, in the same parkas, in the front parking lot trying to get the store’s safe in the back of a vehicle.
He closed the door and called the police again, he said.
During cross examination by Cornell’s lawyer, David Tarnow, both Parent and Oakley said they couldn’t identify the people they saw.
Oakley also testified that he never saw anyone with a rifle in the vehicle they were following.
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