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Chilliwack manslaughter victim was either retreating or advancing when shot rang out

Duelling versions of what happened at time of shooting presented by Crown, defence lawyers

Friday marked the final day in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack for submissions on the evidence by Crown and defence lawyers in the manslaughter sentencing of Owen Charpentier.

Charpentier pleaded guilty in 2020 to manslaughter with a firearm in the October 21, 2019 death of Keith Baldwin at the car wash on Yale Road at Fletcher Street.

The five days spent in court June 13 to 17 were for a Gardiner hearing, which is held when an offender has been convicted but Crown and defence disagree on the circumstances of the crime.

One of the main points of contention between Crown and defence was what happened at the moment of the shooting. Security footage from different vantage points captured the area of the shooting, and the figures involved, cloaked mostly in darkness.

One of the central questions was whether Baldwin was backing away, or taking a step forward, as Charpentier fired the sawed-off .22 rifle hitting Baldwin on the side of the forehead.

“I say Mr. Baldwin was retreating when Mr. Charpentier fired the gun,” said Crown Counsel Henry Waldock, in presenting aggravating factors including the use of the “nasty” or prohibited weapon.

The security video does show a figure move backward.

“He scared Mr. Baldwin into retreating, and while he was retreating Mr. Charpentier shot the gun. It wasn’t self protection, Crown asserted but instead was an aggressive, ‘I’m in charge’ type of move toward him.”

Defence counsel Simon Buck argued that Charpentier had in fact fired the rifle as a “warning shot” to scare Baldwin off as he took a step toward Charpentier.

It was defence’s contention that Baldwin was shot after he sprayed bear spray into the car wash bay, and had stepped back to avoid the effects of the spray. Charpentier’s purpose in shooting the rifle therefore was to protect himself, with no intent of hitting Baldwin, Buck said.

“There can be no doubt Mr. Baldwin approached Mr. Charpentier with violence in mind,” Buck said, noting Baldwin had snuck up to the car wash bay in a stealthy manner.

“Why approach that way?” he asked. “Because he knows his prey is there.”

There was no evidence then that Charpentier was seeking conflict but in fact he had been trying to avoid Baldwin and the conflict, Buck stated.

Defence pointed out that that Charpentier had raised the firearm to “waist level” to shoot, and not at eye level, “which is what you would do if you were trying to hit a target.”

The distance of the shot, estimated at 40 feet, was a “long distance” to fire, which was an indication of just how much of an “unaimed shot” it was.

But Crown argued there was “no specific intention to miss” Baldwin when Charpentier pulled out the rifle and shot him.

The exact spot where Baldwin was shot was another factor in dispute. Crown said Baldwin fell where he was shot near the car wash vacuum, but defence suggested he did not fall right away but rather stumbled across the length of the bay and then fell near the vacuum stand.

Waldock characterized Charpentier as someone who would place blame on everyone else but on himself, and suggested getting the gun in the first place was an attempt by Charpentier establish his reputation as “the tough guy” in charge.

Waldock suggested Charpentier wanted the court to believe he was the victim of “unending bad luck.”

The dispute between the two men was described as having started after Charpentier broke into Baldwin’s car, which led to Baldwin beating on Charpentier with his fists, and a wrench.

Crown said Charpentier aggravated the dispute that led to the shooting by bear-spraying Baldwin in the face at the Newmark apartment stairwell two weeks prior to the shooting, and had prepared for violence by getting the gun.

It was suggested that Baldwin had believed Charpentier was the one who damaged the ignition column of his car, and had told one of the witnesses that, and wanted to be paid for the damage but Charpentier denied he was the one that did the damage.

Charpentier’s sentencing hearing is not yet complete and was put over to Aug. 11 and 12. He is facing anywhere from four years, the mandatory minimum, to as much as nine or 10 years sought by Crown.

RELATED: Charpentier testified he didn’t mean to hit shooting victim

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RELATED: Charpented pleaded guilty to manslaughter

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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