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UPDATED: Alex Willness convicted of manslaughter in police officer’s death

A man accused of hitting an off-duty Abbotsford police officer over the head with a skateboard in Nelson almost three years ago has been convicted of manslaughter. 

Judge Lindsay Lyster delivered her verdict this morning, finding Alex Willness guilty in the death of Allan Young. 

The trial started on Feb. 28 and lasted one month. Evidence was heard from several key witnesses including doctors, eyewitnesses and police officers. 

Court heard Young was dining on a restaurant patio on Baker Street with some others when Willness walked down the street yelling. When Young confronted him, Willness responded by hitting him with his skateboard. Willness was chased by others who held him until police arrived. 

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Young, 55, succumbed to his injuries five days after the initial incident. 

In the courtroom today Judge Lyster dismissed claims from the defense that Willness acted in self-defense.  

She stated Young’s behavior towards Willness could not without reasonable doubt prove the defense’s claim that Young’s intentions were violent. 

She noted that although video surveillance showed Young raising his arms up at Willness seconds before the fatal assault occurred, video footage before the incident and witness testimony indicated it could not be determined whether Young’s intentions were violent. 

Both the video footage and witness testimony suggested Young had been very animated with his hands in a non-violent manner while he was dining before the assault occurred and the seconds leading up to it, Lyster said. 

She also said it was clear from the evidence that Willness was behaving aggressively leading up to the assault and once arrested he was the instigator. 

She said although evidence could not determine which of the three hits to Young’s head were fatal, the first initial assault with the skateboard did force him to the ground in a vulnerable, non-threatening position. 

She determined that after the initial hit, Willness had no reason to believe Young was still a threat that would have forced him to act in selfdefense by striking Young again.  With this in mind, Judge Lyster accepted the Crown’s claim that Willness used excessive force in the situation which resulted in life-threatening brain injuries that led to Young’s death.   

She also noted that during Willness’ testimony, he admitted he was intoxicated during the fatal assault. He claimed that he could not remember most of his own behavior throughout the evening but appeared to remember many details about alleged assaults on him by Young and witnesses who apprehended him after he ran away. 

She also suggested that Willness knew the degree of harm an assault like this could cause, due to the fact his testimony recounted a similar incident from his youth where he witnessed the attack of a peer with a skateboard that knocked him unconscious. She said this statement proved Willness knew how damaging an assault with a skateboard could be.  

Due to the discrepancies in his statement and the suggestion that he knew the damage an assault with a skateboard could cause, Judge Lyster found his testimony lacked credibility and declared the fatal assault not a result of self-defense.  

Willness will appear in court again on Aug. 12 for a pre-sentencing hearing. He has been in custody since March 2021. 

The maximum sentence for manslaughter is life in prison, but there is no minimum unless a gun is involved, and most sentences are under 10 years. 

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