Hamilton area homeowner acquitted in shooting death of Indigenous man

(Jon Styres, a 29-year-old father of two from the Six Nations reserve, was shot dead after breaking into a truck.)

A Hamilton-area homeowner has been acquitted in the shooting death of an Indigenous man who broke into his truck.

Peter Khill, 28, admitted he shot Jon Styres but pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, saying he fired in self-defence when he thought Styres was pointing a gun at him.

The trial heard that Styres, a 29-year-old father of two from Ohsweken, Ont., on the Six Nations reserve, did not have a gun at the time of the shooting.

A jury acquitted Khill this morning after beginning deliberations Tuesday afternoon.

Khill was stoic as the verdict was read out. His wife tearfully embraced family members in the front row of the court, while Styres’ friends and family consoled each other.

Justice Stephen Glithero thanked both sides for their participation in what he called a tough and emotional trial.

The incident took place in the early morning of Feb. 4, 2016.

Khill and his girlfriend – now his wife – awoke to the sound of banging outside their rural home and saw Styres inside their truck parked outside, the jury was told. Khill loaded his shotgun, left the home through the back door, and cut through a breezeway between the house and the garage to confront Styres.

Khill told police and a 911 operator that Styres raised his arms as though he were pointing a gun at Khill, the jury heard.

Only after Khill shot Styres did his girlfriend call 911, court heard.

At trial Khill testified that he had yelled at Styres to put his hands up and fired as Styres began to turn towards him. Styres was facing sideways with his hands at waist height when he was shot, Crown attorney Steve O’Brien told the jury during his closing statement.

The Crown argued that Styres did not pose a reasonable threat to Khill and his girlfriend while they were inside their locked home, and that Khill should have called 911 and waited for police rather than run out of the house with a loaded shotgun.

Defence lawyer Jeffrey Manishen told the jury Khill was simply following his training as a military reservist to “neutralize” a threat to his life.

“Soldiers react proactively, that’s how they are trained,” Manishen said in his closing address. “Mr. Khill said that’s why he acted the way he acted. To take control of the situation.”

Glithero had told jurors they could rule in Khill’s favour if they decide he “reasonably” believed he was under threat.

The case has garnered attention for similarities to a recent Saskatchewan case, in which white farmer Gerald Stanley was acquitted in February in the death of Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man.

Manishen told the jury that race played no part in this case, as Khill could not possibly have known Styres was Indigenous given how dark it was at the time of the shooting and how quickly events unfolded.