A man who shot a friend at a Kamloops bush party, setting in motion tragic events ending in the death of the popular TRU student in a vehicle accident, pleaded guilty in provincial court Thursday to careless use of a firearm.
Kaelen George Taylor, 22, was handed a conditional discharge, meaning if he completes 12 months of probation, he will not have a criminal record. Judge Sheri Donegan noted Taylor will carry the emotional burden of this tragedy for the rest of his life, something that must be weighed by the court.
“You accidentally and carelessly shot your friend. This terrible tragedy will be with you for the rest of your life,” Donegan told the man as he was sentenced.
“When I consider what you are likely to go through with respect to the results of the events of May 26, 2012, in this case, the sentencing aims can be met by a conditional discharge.”
Taylor was charged shortly after the incident near Scuitto Lake. Prosecutor Catriona Elliott told the court Taylor had joined a group of young people at the lake for a backcountry stag party. Many in the group were drinking, although Taylor was not one of them. Several of the young men were shooting skeet.
Elliott said Taylor was invited to give the sport a try, even though he had never before fired a shotgun. He took the double-barreled firearm, an older model with two triggers, and took a shot.
After, he turned to set the gun down and as he did so, he accidentally tripped the second trigger, firing off the second barrel. Ben Kirkey, 25, was standing close by and suffered a grievous injury to his lower arm.
Kirkey was a well-respected and popular Thompson Rivers University student who was studying business and was close to graduation. His father is a TRU instructor.
The wounded man’s friends tried to administer first aid as best they could, the judge was told. Calls were made for medical help and Kirkey was loaded into a pick-up truck to be driven to meet the ambulance.
On the way down the gravel road, however, the driver of the truck lost control and rolled. Both men were thrown from the vehicle and critically injured. The ambulance dispatched to the shooting call came upon the crash site and called for an air evacuation. Kirkey succumbed to his injuries later that night. Elliott told the court that Kirkey would have survived the gunshot.
“These were very tragic events,” she said.
The Crown sought a $1,500 fine and a 10-year firearm prohibition.
Defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen said his client made a poor choice by agreeing to handle the firearm when he clearly did not have the skills. Kirkey’s death, however, was not the result of Taylor’s actions.
“What Mr. Taylor is guilty of is an accident, a total accident,” Jensen said.
Jensen said Taylor has never before been in trouble with the law and will never be in court again. He is a hard-working young adult who has the support of many family and friends.
Regardless of how things happened, Taylor will live forever with the knowledge he set in motion the deadly chain of events, the judge was told.
“Society doesn’t need general deterrence here. Although he was not directly responsible for Mr. Kirkey’s death, he still has to live with what happened,” Jensen said.
“Society knows this is probably the greatest denunciation anyone could put on this young man’s shoulders.”
The driver of the truck involved in the accident that killed Kirkey was charged with impaired driving causing death. His trial before a B.C. Supreme Court jury is expected to take place later this year.