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‘We can’t let him get away’: Nelson witness testifies to detaining man who allegedly struck Abbotsford officer

Alex Willness is on trial for manslaughter following the death of Allan Young in 2020
The trial of Alex Willness following the death of Allan Young in 2020 was in its third day on March 8 at the Nelson courthouse. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

A man who witnessed off-duty Abbotsford police officer Allan Young being struck on the head with a skateboard in 2020 testified in a Nelson court on March 8.

Young died of his injury five days later. The manslaughter trial of Alex Willness began B.C. Supreme Court in Nelson on March 6.

Jesse Coons was one of a group of six people eating and drinking near midnight on the patio of Cantina del Centro, a restaurant on Baker Street, on July 16, 2020.

Coons testified that his group and others on the patio became distracted by a group of three young men walking westward up Baker Street toward them from Josephine Street.

The men were yelling aggressively, Coons said. One of them in particular, a man carrying a skateboard, was yelling the loudest and most violently.

Coons told the court that a man on the patio shouted back at the young men, “Shut up, I’m trying to have dinner with my wife.”

That man was Young. The man with the skateboard began yelling at Young and moving across the street toward the patio.

Coons said Young climbed over the patio railing and met the man in the middle of the street. The man “swung the skateboard like an axe with two hands from behind his head” and struck Young on the head with the edge of the skateboard, Coons told the court.

Young fell backward and hit his head on the pavement. Blood began to flow, and Young didn’t get up.

Coons said he and a friend, whom he identified as Dallas, saw the man with the skateboard quickly leaving the scene, westward on Baker Street. They agreed that, “We’ve got to get this guy, we can’t let him get away.”

He and Dallas caught up to the man with the skateboard half a block away near the intersection of Baker and Ward Streets. When they confronted him, he began swinging his skateboard at them. Dallas tackled the man and took him to the ground.

Coons said he thought the man was very intoxicated and said he fought back aggressively.

To help Dallas hold the man on the ground, Coons said he kicked him in the head several times.

“I was scared. I had seen him hit a man with a skateboard, and he swung it at us. I used the force I thought was necessary,” he said, but the man was “unfazed.”

Coons said another man who had been on the patio arrived and helped to hold the man down and in doing so punched him in the head several times.

They told passersby that the man with the skateboard “had just killed a man,” to which the man with the skateboard replied, “I hope he lives.”

By the time the police arrived a few moments later the man had given up trying to get away, Coons said. The police arrested him and put him in the back seat of a police car. Coons then heard a smashing sound, and turned to see that the man had kicked the back window out of the police car.

Cross-examining Coons, defence lawyer Jordan Watt asked if Coons had seen Young charge at the man with the skateboard and take a swing at the him before being struck the the skateboard. Coons denied that this had happened.

Watt asked Coons why he didn’t call the police instead of chasing the man. Coons replied that he felt it was his duty because he was afraid he would get away.

The lawyer asked Coons why he kicked the man in the head, and suggested he and Dallas were angry at the man and wanted to do violence to him. Coons said Dallas needed help and he did this on “in the spur on the moment.”

Crown counsel Cheryl-Anne Pine told the Nelson Star she plans to call several additional patio witnesses on March 9 and 10. Then the trial will be suspended for a week and will resume on March 20.

On March 7 the court heard from Vanessa Phillips, who was the server on the Cantina patio that night.

She said she heard and saw a group of young men, shouting and swearing loudly, walking up Baker Street from Josephine Street in the direction of her patio. One of them was shouting that he was going to kill one of the others. She described their shouting and swearing as “frightening,” “angry” and “crazy.” She said, “I thought they were on crack or something.”

As they approached the patio she told them she was going to call the police, but this did not deter them.

She went inside to call 911 and by the time she went back outside she saw someone lying on the road, and she recognized him as a man whom she had been serving with his wife on the patio. She said they had told her they were on vacation and she said they were drunk and “gregarious and silly and loud.”

On March 8 the court heard from emergency physician Dr. Nicholas Sparrow, who arrived on the scene minutes after Young was struck.

Sparrow said when he arrived he found one member of the public and two paramedics with Young. He found that Young initially appeared to be unconscious but then opened his eyes and was conscious but agitated.

Sparrow said Young was bleeding from the back of the head.

It was clear to Sparrow that Young had the early indicators of a serious head injury, and that these included Young’s initial unconsciousness and his agitation when he regained consciousness. He said Young was intoxicated.

Sparrow said he accompanied Young in an ambulance to the Kootenay Lake Hospital emergency ward, and that was his last contact with him.


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