The parents of Gerald Lester Whitford, who was involved in last year’s pre-graduation party altercations at Sunset Lake campground, are pleading for more witnesses to come forward.
On June 8, 2017, three injured individuals were taken to hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries as a result of altercations during the pre-graduation party.
“There are still many unanswered questions that our family needs answers to,” said parents Janet and Gerry Whitford. “This has been a parents’ worst nightmare.”
Their son, who had originally been charged with three counts of aggravated assault, appeared before the B.C. Provincial Court on Feb. 6, 2018. On that day he entered a plea of guilty to the lesser included offence of assault with a weapon, and was sentenced to a nine-month conditional sentence to be followed by one year of probation.
Two individuals — who cannot be identified because of their age — have been charged with assaulting Gerald. The two youths had a court hearing scheduled for May 7, 2018. However, their charges have been adjourned to June 11, 2018.
Gerald’s parents believe that further investigation could not only bolster the prosecution’s case against the two youths, but that it could also lead to more people being charged with assaulting their son.
“The worst part of this entire case was when I learned how many individuals were pounding … on my son and failed to stop,” said Janet.
The parents also said that they were not pleased with how the investigation has unfolded, calling it “biased” against First Nations.
“We are grateful that this is finally being investigated, thanks to our son’s mother-in-law.”
Gerald’s mother-in-law, Mavis Goertzen, lodged several complaints with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP earlier this year.
In a copy of the complaint, obtained by Houston Today, Goertzen says the RCMP “failed to conduct a proper investigation,” specifying that key witnesses have not been interviewed, including her daughter Elisha Goertzen.
She also says she considers the RCMP investigation “one-sided,” adding that a police officer made an “inappropriate comment” at the Houston RCMP detachment on June 8, 2017 when telling her that Gerald’s actions were worse than what had happened to him.
According to Mavis, two major fights erupted that night — at 10 p.m. and at 12:30 a.m. She says the fights were “racially-motivated,” based on racial comments and death threats toward her son-in-law, adding that Gerald was defending himself when he pulled out the knife.
Madonna Saunderson, a spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP’s North District division, said she was unable to make a comment given that the matter is still before the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.
The B.C. Prosecution Service is also not commenting on this case given that the matters arising from the assault upon Gerald remain before the court.
On June 11, 2018, the two youths charged with assaulting Gerald are expected to inform the court how they are going to plead — guilty or not guilty.
If they plead guilty, a trial will not be held, and the next step will be for the judge to decide the appropriate sentence. If they plead not guilty, a trial date will be set, and both Crown and defence counsel will then estimate the amount of time they believe will be required for the trial.