‘Can’t go back to normal’: Landowner accused of shooting trespasser describes new reality

Edouard Maurice, known as Eddie, and his wife Jessica say they didn’t want the spotlight.

But since it was thrust on them, they are going to use their platform to stand up for other rural landowners and they hope to nudge lawmakers to make changes.

“We’ve decided to stand up because we know this could have been anybody,” Jessica told CBC News Wednesday in an extensive interview with the couple’s lawyer present.

“They are all watching because they know it affects them too. We feel this obligation to have the courage to stand up against this thing. Although we don’t want the attention, it’s there.”

The incident that triggered that attention started Feb. 24, 2018, when two trespassers entered their property near Okotoks, south of Calgary.

Eddie fired warning shots. A bullet ended up in the arm of Ryan Watson, one of the trespassers.

Eddie was initially charged with aggravated assault, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm.

Jessica Maurice says her family, including husband Eddie, is taking a stand by filing a counterclaim. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Those charges were dropped in June of that year when a ballistics report determined no crime had been committed by Eddie.

The case became a flashpoint in the ongoing debate around rural landowners’ rights to defend their property and with what level of force.

Dozens of people routinely showed up to court hearings in support of the family and an online fundraising campaign has exceeded the $50,000 goal.

In February, Watson was given a 45-day sentence for mischief and breaching probation but was released because of time served in pretrial custody.

Then last month, Watson filed a $100,000 statement of claim stating he has suffered “emotional upset, severe fatigue and insomnia.” He is also claiming special damages including loss of income “in an amount to be proven at court.”

Just this week, CBC News reported Eddie filed a statement of defence against Watson’s claim and a counterclaim of $150,000.

Eddie says the entire situation has deeply impacted his family.

“It’s the mental toll of having the nightmares, having the worry of what’s going to happen. The insecurity now, that you have been victimized,” he said.

“You can’t go back to normal.”

He says unknown headlights coming toward his house at night now have a very different feeling.

The counterclaim alleges Jessica needed counselling and suffered a miscarriage and the family continues to suffer mental stress. Eddie is also seeking wages lost while fighting criminal charges in court.

Stephen Nelson said his client’s claim is based on Eddie Maurice’s negligent use of a firearm when confronting two trespassers on Maurice’s property in February of last year. (Submitted by Stephen Nelson)

Watson’s lawyer says, whether people understand it or not, the law is clear in this matter.

“This issue is, whether or not [Watson] was posing a threat of immediate death or grievous bodily harm to [Eddie] or his family,” Stephen Nelson told CBC News late Wednesday afternoon.

“If there is no threat of that, it is not reasonable to use a firearm.”

Nelson says the basis of Watson’s case is that Eddie’s use of the gun was negligent.

“We only have to prove negligence, not intent,” the Calgary-based lawyer said.

“There were a lot of other options. I don’t believe he should discharge a firearm unless it is necessary for the preservation of life or prevention of bodily harm.”

Nelson acknowledges the rarity of cases like this, but says they do happen.

“Often times it’s cases involving the police. The plaintiffs have been successful in many cases, but these are very fact-specific cases.”

He says it’s unlike Watson’s case would be thrown out as frivolous.

“If some is trying to steal a bike off your lawn, you are not allowed to pull out a shotgun and shoot them. If they come at you with a knife, yes, that is more reasonable,” Nelson said.

“That’s what the law is.”

Eddie and Jessica Maurice are hoping by standing their ground in upcoming legal proceedings, others won’t have to in the future. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Meanwhile, the Maurice family says the incident and legal process that followed was a learning experience.

“It’s an opportunity to teach our kids that you have to be a leader, take opportunities to stand up for yourself, and others when you can. Take responsibility and do the right thing,” Jessica said.

“That’s why we took our daughters to the court cases, to teach them to be responsible adults.”

And Eddie is hoping his family’s experience, might make trespassers think twice.

“I guess the biggest thing I would like at the end of this is, that no one has to go through this process that we have had to go through for the past almost two years.”

None of the claims, counterclaims and defence statements have been proven in court.

Read more at CBC.ca