June 26, 2017 8:48 pm
Updated: June 27, 2017 8:34 pm

Kelowna man found not guilty in “sucker punch” incident outside restaurant

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UPDATE: A Kelowna jury has found Cory Van Gilder not guilty of manslaughter in connection to a deadly “sucker punch” incident in the parking lot of a local restaurant in February 2016.  The jury began deliberating late afternoon Monday and delivered its verdict about 24 hours later.  Van Gilder broke into tears as the decision came down with his face in his hands slumped over. Van Gilder’s grandma told Global News the family feels relieved adding they always believed Van Gilder would be acquitted.

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A Kelowna jury began deliberations Monday afternoon to determine if Cory Van Gilder is guilty of manslaughter.

On a February night in 2016 in a restaurant parking lot, Van Gilder punched Zachary Gaudette once on the side of his neck. The fatal blow burst a blood vessel and Gaudette, a visitor to Kelowna, died two days later in hospital.

Gaudette was very drunk, three times the legal driving limit, and was angry and obnoxious as he challenged anyone and everyone to a fight.

Van Gilder, 26, is a former mixed martial arts fighter. He claims he was acting in self-defence and protecting other people in the parking lot.

In closing submissions, defence lawyer, Jeffrey Campbell, told the jury: “Mr. Van Gilder acted to defuse a volatile situation. Zachary Gaudette was a powder keg looking to explode. It was just a question of time and who would be the target.”

But the prosecutor says Van Gilder’s actions were not reasonable and not proportionate to the threat at hand, saying he had other options like phoning police or walking away.

He argues Gaudette wasn’t about to pounce and attack. Rather, he was waiting for someone to accept his challenge to a consensual fight.

Andrew Vandersluys told the jury: “This is essentially a sucker punch. And despite his invitation to fight, common sense tells you this was not something he was expecting. Despite his aggression and anger, (Gaudette) did not and could not consent to the punch he received.”

Gaudette once pepper sprayed a man because of a conflict over a cigarette. There was a warrant for his arrest in Ontario for allegedly possessing a sawed-off shotgun. And he had a small knife in his pocket when he was punched.

The defence says those factors magnified the danger the 30-year-old presented that fateful night. But Vandersluys calls those “red herring” issues, irrelevant because Van Gilder didn’t know any of that when he delivered the fatal blow.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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