My name is Eddie Maurice and this is my wife Jessica. Thank you for inviting us here to share our story and speak on an issue that has greatly affected us.
We were invited here to speak because when two criminals came onto my rural property in February, I was the one arrested by the RCMP. My story received national attention after charges were laid against me for protecting myself, my young daughter and my property.
I was home alone with my 12-month-old daughter, who was sleeping in her bedroom downstairs, when I was awoken from my sleep at about 5:00 a.m. by criminals outside my rural home. Instantly, I was terrified, because when you live in the country as we do, your neighbours cannot hear you scream. It was pitch black outside and pitch black in the house, and I didn't know how many criminals there were, where they were or what they wanted.
I took my .22 rifle and went to the front door to confront and scare off the two criminals who were just 10 feet away. I yelled at them to leave and got no response from them, so I fired warning shots into the ground to scare them off. The two criminals ran back up our laneway to a van waiting on the road, and I immediately called 911 to report what had happened in the hope that the RCMP would catch them. I just wanted to protect my daughter, who was sleeping downstairs.
We live on the edge of our town of almost 30,000 people, just a seven-minute drive from our RCMP station. I waited anxiously for the police to arrive, fearful of who might still be out in the dark or that people might come back. Two hours later, three RCMP cruisers drove in and officers came to my door with their assault rifles drawn to arrest me. They were telling me that I, the person who called 911 on the real criminals, was under arrest. It turned out that one of the criminals had been injured by a ricocheting bullet and the police were responding to his, the criminal's, 911 call. I informed the officers that my daughter was still sleeping in her crib and the RCMP officer arresting me expected me to leave her in her care, treating me as the criminal rather than the victim.
At the time of my arrest, I was advised that I was being arrested for the criminal charge of careless use of a firearm. After I was in custody for 24 hours, the RCMP laid three charges against me: careless use of a firearm, pointing a firearm, and, the most serious charge, aggravated assault. Now, this is an important part of the story, because this is where the RCMP made a mistake that was life-changing for our family. They laid the charges at about 7:00 a.m. Sunday and did not even begin a physical investigation of the property or forensics until 9:00 a.m. Sunday. This means that the RCMP made a decision to lay three serious charges against me based solely on my 911 call, a statement that they coerced me into giving without my lawyer present, and a statement from the injured criminal. This criminal had admitted to doing drugs earlier in the night, was found with methamphetamine on him, and had a criminal history. Our two statements were very different. The police had no physical evidence or any admission from me that I intended to injure this person.
The RCMP had a choice at the time. They could have and should have released me because I was a law-abiding, taxpaying citizen with no criminal record. They could have investigated further and laid charges later if the evidence supported it. Instead, they chose to lay the charges without sufficient basis and hoped that the evidence they later found would support them in those charges. I was presumed guilty first, rather than innocent, which is not how our justice system was designed.
The evidence didn't support the RCMP's charges, and the preliminary ballistics report confirmed my statement. The Crown withdrew the charges after four months of extreme stress, anxiety and fear for our family. This whole event was traumatic for me. Confronting these criminals outside my home gave me nightmares that were long-lasting. They were dressed all in black, and in the dark you couldn't tell if they had weapons. Then to be arrested and charged like a criminal after calling 911 expecting help, when I didn't do anything wrong and did what any other rural person would do in the same situation, was devastating. I didn't ask for these criminals to come onto my property and force me to make a decision. I don't want anyone else to have to go through this same experience.