'Eddie's not a criminal': Support for landowner accused of shooting trespasser continues as case adjourned

Dozens of supporters of Edouard Maurice clapped as he arrived at an Okotoks, Alta., courtroom Friday morning.

Case has become a flashpoint over rural property owner rights and use of force

Dozens showed support for Edouard Maurice ahead of his appearance in an Okotoks, Alta., courtroom on Friday. Maurice is facing charges after allegedly shooting a trespasser on his property in February. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Dozens of supporters of Edouard Maurice clapped as he arrived at a courthouse in Okotoks, Alta., on Friday morning.

Maurice was charged after he allegedly shot a trespasser on his rural southern Alberta property in late February.

The man he allegedly shot, Ryan Watson, is also facing a number of charges. A second person on the property during the incident, Stephanie Martens, has been charged as well.

The case has become a flashpoint over property owner rights and use of force.

Acreage owner Sandra Moore says many people have reached their limit.

"We've been victims of thieves three times now and we are really tired of it," Moore said.

"Eddie's not a criminal. He's the nicest young man you could ever want to meet. He's the salt of the earth. He's been persecuted for defending himself, his property. It's wrong."

Iris Allsopp says her neighbours are all victims of potential violence. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Supporter Iris Allsopp lives south of the town and says her neighbours are on edge.

"We are all victims of potential violence," she said.

"We are here to support that landowners should have the right to protect their property. Realistically, it takes the RCMP quite a while to get to your property, and by that time the damage is done. So we need to protect ourselves. You don't know how you will act until it happens."

Cory Morgan has not experienced rural crime but says it's the talk of the town. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Cory Morgan agrees it's a hot topic.

"I've been fortunate so far, had no problems at my place. But where I live it's always the talk of the town," he said.

"This is a very big issue. Someone is going to be killed soon if we are not changing something substantial, and we really got to take it seriously."

The province recently announced increased funding of $10 million to address rural crime.

"Some communities in rural Alberta are experiencing the highest property crime rates they've seen in five years," Kathleen Ganley, minister of justice and solicitor general, said March 9.

"This spike in criminal activity worries me."

Edouard Maurice's case was adjourned until April 20. (CBC)

Firearm enthusiasts slammed proposed federal legislation, Bill C-71, at a gun show in Calgary last weekend.

"We definitely have too much gun control," Sheldon Clare, the president of Canada's National Firearms Association, a group that advocates for gun rights, said at event.

"A licence does not prevent a person from making a subsequent bad choice."

Ryan Slingerland, a 15-year-old resident of Coalhurst, Alta., is protesting increased gun control with a petition that has been signed by tens of thousands and has the backing of the area's Conservative MP.

Common problem

Just Wednesday, RCMP responded to an alarm call at a Red Deer County rural property, catching two suspected thieves in the act.

Sheldon Richard Metcalf, 46, was charged with break and enter and 36-year-old Lyle Stanton Dean Whitesel was charged with break and enter and other offences.

"This witness did the right thing and stayed safe by calling police," Innisfail RCMP said in a Friday release.

Meanwhile, Maurice's case was adjourned until April 20.

With files from CBC's Dan McGarvey