A Saskatchewan jury has found Gerald Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie.
Boushie, of the Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot dead in August 2016 while sitting in the driver’s seat of an SUV that was driven onto Stanley’s farm near Biggar, Sask.
The defence argued that Stanley, 56, didn’t pull the trigger, and that the incident was a freak accident.
The trial began at the end of January. The 12 jurors began deliberating on Thursday afternoon, and asked to re-hear testimony from Stanley’s son Friday morning. The verdict was announced 7:30 p.m. CT.
WATCH: Colten Boushie’s uncle reacts to Gerald Stanley not guilty verdict
The case has sparked racial tensions in the province; as the jury began deliberating, Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark released a joint statement earlier in the day asking for communities to work together regardless of any verdict.
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“This case has cracked open the racial undercurrent in Saskatchewan with the potential to further drive a wedge of mistrust between communities,” Arcand and Clark said in the statement.
“We cannot build our future with hateful dialogue and divisiveness. As we await the verdict and wonder what impact this could have on our province, and more importantly, our relations with each other, we must continue to work with each other in a good way, in a respectful way.”
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After the verdict was released, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe released a statement asking for “consideration, patience, and understanding for one another.”
“I would urge everyone to be measured in their reaction. Let us all remember our personal responsibility for our thoughts, our actions, and our comments – including those on social media,” the statement read.
Family and friends expressed disappointment with the verdict, saying they will be asking for an inquiry into the situation.
WATCH: ‘This is not right’: Colten Boushie’s brother reacts to verdict
“We’re still unsafe,” Kimberly Jonathan, FSIN vice chief, said outside the courthouse Friday night. “Someone can say it’s an accident and shoot one of us and be found not guilty.”
But she also called for calm even during this objectionable time.
“To all of those who are broken right now today, please remain peaceful,” she said, saying we are all treaty people.
Stanley quickly left the courthouse, without speaking to media.
WATCH: Crown says ‘things will be considered’ regarding appeal in Gerald Stanley case
The Crown prosecutor Bill Burge said it was a “tough time” for everyone including the jury, and that he presented all the evidence that he could at the trial.
“We presented everything there was to present,” he said.
He also said “things will be considered,” when asked about a possible appeal.
WATCH: FSIN Chief says Gerald Stanley has ‘not got away with this yet’