Gerald Stanley pleads not guilty to 2nd-degree murder in Colten Boushie shooting
Judge has reserved decision on whether accused will be granted bail
The Saskatchewan man charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, 22, on a farm last week pleaded not guilty to the charge in a packed courtroom Thursday.
The hearing for Gerald Stanley, 54, took place at the North Battleford provincial court office, while a crowd of more than 200 people gathered outside, many holding signs with anti-racism slogans and wearing "Justice for Colten" pins.
Boushie was a passenger in a car with four other people when he was shot and killed on Aug. 9 on a farm near Biggar. His family says the group was going to ask for help with a flat tire.
The case has sparked heated racial debate online, prompting condemnations from Premier Brad Wall and the National Farmers Union.
Family and friends of Boushie made emotive speeches at the doors of the courthouse before Stanley's appearance, saying they want justice.
William Boushie expressed the pain of losing his brother, who he said had helped him.
"I hope that I can find forgiveness in my heart in the long run, but right now I'm grieving, I'm hurt," he said.
He said his brother was a community man and thanked those who were supporting his family.
People lined up outside to get a seat in the courtroom, but many were turned away when it became too full. Those who did make it inside were patted down by security before being allowed in.
Stanley's family watched from the front row as he entered wearing shackles. As police escorted him away after the plea, a crowd of Boushie supporters followed them, chanting "justice for Colten."
Colten's mother, Debbie Baptiste, did not speak about the incident before attending Stanley's second appearance on Thursday: a bail hearing at the Court of Queen's Bench in Battleford.
Baptiste was part of a family group escorted up the stairs into the building, where there was a strong police presence inside and outside the courtroom.
Six officers watched over the room and a newly installed metal detector was used for security screening.
The judge granted a publication ban on evidence presented, which is common practice at bail hearings.
After hearing nearly two hours of arguments, the judge said he would reserve his decision on whether Stanley would be granted bail until Friday or Monday.
Stanley family responds
Stanley's lawyer, Scott Spencer, released a statement on behalf of the family expressing condolences to Boushie's loved ones.
The statement asked the public to reserve judgment.
"While the circumstances of the incident are not as simple as some media reports have portrayed, the Stanley family will reserve comment until completion of the criminal process," the statement said.
"Although the rampant speculation and misinformation is frustrating, it is not the place for, or reasonable to expect, the Stanley family to correct the public record."
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief Kimberly Jonathan said before the rallies that a number of leaders and chiefs were flying in from across Canada to attend.
She said it has been an emotional time for many.
"This young man is dead and he's never coming back," said Jonathan. "This has brought to the surface the hate and long-standing concerns we face every day."
RCMP stepping up security
The street outside the North Battleford courthouse was closed during the morning's rally. Officers then moved to the Court of Queen's Bench in Battleford, where Stanley's bail hearing was held.
A nearby gym was used a police staging area.
According to the North Battleford RCMP, extra members were brought in for security.
Last week, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations was critical of the way RCMP initially described the shooting death of Boushie, saying it was fuelling racial tensions in Saskatchewan.
"The news release the RCMP issued the following day provided just enough prejudicial information for the average reader to draw their own conclusions that the shooting was somehow justified," wrote FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a media release.
The case has led to heated discussion on social media, which prompted the premier and interim NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon to call for an end to racist comments.
"This must stop. These comments are not only unacceptable, intolerant and a betrayal of the very values and character of Saskatchewan, they are dangerous," Wall said.
The RCMP said they are investigating social media posts relating to this case.