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Dad gets two-and-a-half years for unintended shooting death of son

Roger Wayne Evans should have known better than to pick up rifle while drunk, says judge

A 65-year-old man has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in a federal prison for the unintentional but deadly shooting of his son.

Roger Wayne Evans was issued the term Tuesday at the Prince George courthouse for the death of Dale Evans sometime over the night of July 31-August 1, 2018.

Based on evidence and testimony presented during a trial on the matter, the two were in the process of moving out of their home in the 6200 block of Nazko Highway, about 50 kilometres west of Quesnel but had also been drinking. 

In the home was a rifle - a Savage 99C Series A .308 Winchester with lever action - that Roger Evans normally kept standing in the corner of his bedroom but, for reasons not explained, was lying on the kitchen table amid several empty and full beer cans.  

Roger Evans had picked up a rifle with the intent of carrying out to a trailer for safe keeping when it went off. His son, who had been walking in front of his father as they were leaving the home, was struck in the back with a .308-calibre bullet.

Dale Evans fell immediately and, when checked by his father, showed no signs of life. Lacking a landline and out of cellphone range, Roger Evans could not call for help from the home and, according to his statement to police, felt he was too drunk to drive.

Shortly after 9 a.m. on Aug. 1, 2018, a friend who had dropped by to help with their move found Evans' body lying in a pool of blood. When he yelled for Roger Evans, there was no response, and, reluctant to go further into the house, drove to a spot within cell range and called 911.

RCMP arrived later that morning and found Roger Evans on a couch in the living room where it appeared he had just woken up. He later told police he "passed out, I guess."

Dale Evans was 41 years old at the time of his death.

In issuing the term, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Tammen said the father's expressions of remorse and regret were "moving and no doubt sincere" but went on to note Evans' refusal to take full responsibility for the incident.

Evans, who admitted to having consumed four or five beers prior to the event, "should have known he was too drunk to handle a firearm," Tammen concluded.

Instead, Evans has continued to refer to the shooting as an accident and "cleaves to the notion that his son, the victim, was responsible for leaving the loaded firearm on the table."

Tammen said Evans, who has said his son left the rifle on the table after a round of target shooting, should have taken steps to secure the rifle and render it safe for transport "long before he commenced drinking with his son."

"Once he was in an advanced state of intoxication, he should not have handled the firearm. It matters not who used the rifle or placed it on the table. It was Mr. Evans' rifle and his responsibility.

"Prior to picking up the rifle, Mr. Evans did not remove the magazine nor take any steps to check if the gun was loaded. Then, having picked up the rifle, he did not point it at the floor or the ceiling but rather in the direction of his son, the only other occupant of the home.

"Precisely how the gun discharged is a matter for which there is no evident. The only logical inference is that he accidentally applied pressure to the trigger and further that he was in such a state of intoxication that he does not recall how that occurred.

"The moral blameworthiness of the accused is akin to a grossly-impaired individual who decides to drive an automobile while in that condition."

Tammen also noted Evans was issued a 15-month jail sentence in Alberta in 2007 for a count of aggravated assault committed while he was "blackout" drunk. While a firearms prohibition related to that matter had lapsed by the time of the fatal shooting, Evans had not taken steps to acquire a firearms licence. Nor was the rifle stored safely in the lead up to the incident, the Justice found.

During a sentencing hearing on Monday, Crown counsel argued for up to four years in prison while defence counsel pushed for a conditional sentence order - effectively house arrest - of two years less a day followed by three years probation. 

If not for Evans' "significant Gladue factors" related to his Metis heritage, Tammen said a sentence of three to four years in prison would have been appropriate and dismissed defence counsel's position of falling short of matching the seriousness of the offence.

"The sentence must be proportionate to the degree of responsibility of the offender and must adequately express society's condemnation of the unlawful conduct," Tammen said.