[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only. It may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]
SARNIA, Ont. - Two weapons charges were dropped Monday against a protester involved in a clash with police that ended with the shooting death of an aboriginal demonstrator.
The Crown dropped charges of discharging a firearm and possession of a dangerous weapon against Warren George, 24, at the start of a trial involving him and another protester.
There was "no reasonable prospect of conviction," Crown attorney Henry Van Drunen said.
Chief Irvin George, of the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation, said dropping the charges provides proof demonstrators in the park were unarmed when police began shooting at them in September 1995.
"The accused in this case is a hero - it is a miracle he is alive," said the chief of Warren George. "This young man risked his life trying to save the life of Bernard George, a councillor on our council who was being brutally beaten."
Defence lawyer Jeffry House said outside court "it's significant in the Ipperwash incident that after the (provincial police) announced they were responding to firearms, it turns out it's not only unproven, but the Crown isn't going to attempt to prove it."
Warren George still faces an assault charge and two charges in connection to a car he drove at riot police during the dispute.
He is accused of driving the car out of the park and hitting police officers.
The trial of David George, 26, also began Monday. He is charged with assaulting a peace officer and assault with a weapon.
Both were members of a group of southwestern Ontario aboriginals who occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park in September 1995. Protesters claimed the park contained a sacred burial site.
In Monday's testimony, court heard from Staff Sgt. Wade LaCroix, leader of a 32-member crowd management unit which marched down a road the night of Sept. 6 and confronted about 15 aboriginals standing in a parking lot outside the park.
Lacroix said he ordered the unit into a "split formation," sending officers scurrying for cover to each side of the roadway to avoid being struck by a school bus coming down the road.
"Then I heard a pop, pop, pop . . . I knew to be gun shots," Lacroix said adding someone else reported "we're taking fire from the bus."
At that point, Lacroix testified he became aware of "a large four-door car." He said the car reversed and appeared to be preparing to drive towards the officers when he took aim and ran towards the vehicle.
He testified he observed "three muzzle flashes" - the light of gun fire - from the driver's window then fired twice at "a silhouette of a male" seated in the driver's seat.
Lacroix testified he then heard a warning over his radio to "watch out for the bus" and stepped aside just as the bus reversed past him prompting him to fire twice through the door at the driver.
Acting Supt. John Carson, testified to open the trial that he ordered the unit to remove the demonstrators from the parking lot after a complaint was lodged by another native that his car had been damaged by the demonstrators.
SARNIA -- Firearms charges at the last trial of native protesters arrested after a clash with police at Ipperwash in 1995 were withdrawn Monday because there is "no reasonable prospect of conviction," the Crown attorney said.
Warren Anthony George, 24, faced five charges, including possession of a firearm dangerous to the public peace and use of a firearm during an indictable offence. But Crown attorney Henry Van Drunen asked the charges be withdrawn at the beginning of George's trial here Monday.
Defence lawyer Jeffry House said outside court he's "glad to see it's finally being recognized there's no reasonable chance of proving" the natives at the Ipperwash protest were armed.
"Overall, it's significant in the Ipperwash incident that after the OPP announced they were responding to firearms, it turns out it's not only unproven, but the Crown isn't going to attempt to prove it," he said.
The issue of native protesters at Ipperwash having firearms has been hotly debated since police and natives battled outside Ipperwash Provincial Park, the site of a native protest, on Sept. 6, 1995.
A judge ruled at the trial of an officer convicted of shooting and killing a protester the natives were unarmed and officers who said the natives were armed had fabricated their testimony.
Van Drunen outside court declined to discuss his reasons for withdrawing the charges. "As a result of my continuing assessment...(there is) no reasonable prospect of conviction on counts four and five," Van Drunen told Judge Greg Pockele of Ontario court, provincial division, during the trial.
The trial is proceeding on three other charges George faces: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon, a car. He is accused of driving the car out of the park and hitting police officers.
The trial of David Abraham George, 26, is also proceeding. He is charged with assaulting a peace officer and assault with a weapon, a piece of wood.
In Monday's testimony, court heard from Staff Sgt. Wade LaCroix, leader of a 32-member crowd management unit wearing riot gear which marched down a road late at night that Sept. 6 and confronted about 15 natives who were standing in a parking lot outside the park.
Two days earlier, about 24 natives, mostly Stoney Pointers, had walked into the park as it closed for the season to protest the desecration of a burial ground when the park was developed in the 1930s.
LaCroix said he saw the car drive at a group of officers who were leaving the scene after battling natives and strike at least three of them. One officer fell onto the car on top of his riot shield, another rolled off the right side and one fell backwards, his legs ending up under the bumper of the car, LaCroix said.
The car then backed up and stopped in the road, he said.
The officer saw three muzzle flashes -- the light of gunfire -- in the area of the car's windshield and rearview mirror and fired two rounds into the driver's side, he said.
The defence begins cross-examination of LaCroix today.
Insp. John Carson also took the stand and testified about his decision to send the crowd management unit to the park.
He described the unit's strategy of rushing the crowd of natives in the parking lot outside the park and arresting anyone who was "overrun" by officers.
The judge asked if he could ask a question. "For what? Arrested for what?" Pockele asked.
Carson said officers were being pelted by rocks and burning sticks thrown from the park. To which Pockele asked, if someone had not thrown a rock, "what would they be arrested for?"
The trial is expected to last until Friday.