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Witness haunted by fatal Nelson assault, court hears

An eyewitness says the assault that claimed the life of an off-duty Abbotsford police officer has left him traumatized with memories he will never forget.

Karman Tait of Ontario testified today in a Nelson courtroom as the manslaughter trial of Alex Willness continued.

Tait conducted the citizen’s arrest of Willness after Allan Young was struck with a skateboard downtown Nelson in July 2020.

Tait provided a full day’s testimony of the events of that night including him apprehending Willness.

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Tait says since the event he needed to have closure and move on from this traumatic experience.

“From the moment this happened I wanted to know who passed away,” he says. “I wanted to know who he was, so I looked him up.”

He says the day started off normal, but as the night went on his attention was distracted while he was on the restaurant patio at Cantina del Centro

“I saw a disturbance, an interaction between three suspects,” he says. “They were dropping profanity in public by constantly yelling [f-bombs] at the top of their lungs.” 

Tait says he recalls one of the members of the group, Willness, having an altercation with Young that escalated quickly, but told the court he wouldn’t have called it a threat initially.

“The three individuals walked up the side of the street and started yelling,” he says. “That is when Young went to de-escalate the situation.”

It was unclear from the testimony who the three people were yelling at, but Tait says he could see how Young saw their actions as a threat.

Tait says it was at that point where the tragic events happened quickly. 

“Mr. Young hopped the barricade and went over to the individuals to de-escalate the situation, and Willness struck him with his skateboard,” he says.

Tait says the impact of the skateboard is a sound he won’t forget. 

“Think of it like you are a baseball team in Game 7 at the World Series, and you have to hit a home run to win the game,” he says. “It was that loud.”

Tait chased Willness after the assault about 50 meters where he effected the citizen’s arrest. He says his actions were warranted to make sure justice was served.

Defense counsel challenged Tait’s citizen’s arrest, saying he wanted to play hero, but Tait insisted that wasn’t the case.

“I was acting on my civic duty, which I learned about in Grade 11,” he says. “There was no intent to do anything else, I wanted to make sure [Willness] was apprehended by police.”

Tait says the events of that day will haunt his memories, but one statement made by a bystander will traumatize him for the rest of his life.

“I remember a bystander yelling at him, Willness, as he was restrained,” he says. “She told him ‘you killed him, he is dead.’” 

Young died five days after the incident after succumbing to his injuries. 

The trial is expected to last until the end of March.

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