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Father found guilty of manslaughter in shooting death of son

A Quesnel-area man was found guilty Tuesday of manslaughter in the accidental shooting death of his son.

A Quesnel-area man was found guilty Tuesday of manslaughter in the accidental shooting death of his son.

In issuing the verdict for Roger Wayne Evans, 63, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Tammen outlined a series of actions that led to the death of Dale Evans, 41, sometime over the night of July 31-Aug. 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, it 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."

During closing statements, Roger Evans lawyer, Jason LeBlond, submitted it was possible the rifle had remained on the table and that his client was in the process of picking it up. He noted that photographs of the scene showed the rifle lying on the table with a piece of sandpaper and a cord from a beard trimmer lying on top.

Tammen dismissed that suggestion and noted the upward trajectory of the bullet and that the photo shows the rifle pointing at a different doorway than where Dale Evans' body had been found.

LeBlond also submitted there was a paucity of evidence showing Roger Evans was intoxicated.

Tammen disagreed, based on the statement Evans gave to police combined with the fact that a post-mortem found his son's blood-alcohol level measured .219.

Problems with the state of the gun were noted. The safety is located on top of the stock, lacked markings to show if it is on or off and was obscured by an after-market scope. The gun also lacked an outside indicator to show if it is loaded. 

But it was not enough to sway Tammen from concluding Evans handled the rifle in a manner that was a "marked departure from that of a reasonable person." 

"A reasonably prudent person would've pointed it downward or toward the ceiling, away from any person, and immediately taken steps to determine if the rifle was loaded," Tammen said. "Such steps would have included opening the action, thus activating the safety.

"The accused clearly did none of those things, but rather must have placed his finger on or near the trigger. Although the accused did not expressly admit doing so, from all the evidence, that is the only way in which the rifle could have discharged."

Importantly, said Tammen, Roger Evans handled the rifle while drunk and admitted as much to police.

"He knew he was too drunk to drive and thus could not summon help," Tammen said. "He should also have appreciated he was too drunk to handle a firearm - full stop."

The minimum sentence for the offence is four years. Sentencing will occur at a later date once pre-sentence reports have been completed.