After firing two lethal shotgun blasts into Jon Styres, some of the first words Peter Khill spoke were a trembling explanation to a 911 dispatcher that he pulled the trigger because he was afraid for his life.
Dramatic audio of the 911 call made moments after the fatal shooting of the First Nations man on Feb. 4, 2016, was played in Ontario Superior Court in Hamilton on Wednesday.
“He was in the truck with his hands up, not like his hands up to surrender, but his hands up pointing at me,” the jury heard Khill tell the dispatcher.
“It was pitch black, and it looked like he was literally about to shoot me, so I shot him. I mean, I didn’t want to lose my life so …”
The 28-year-old is charged with second-degree murder and has said through his lawyer that he doesn’t deny firing the shots that killed Styres.
Crown prosecutors previously told the court the 29-year-old member of the nearby Six Nations of the Grand River was trying to steal Khill’s 15-year-old pickup truck on the night he was killed.
Khill has pleaded not guilty.
The 911 call was initially made from Khill’s rural Hamilton home by Melinda Benko, his girlfriend at the time and now his wife.
It begins with her tearfully asking for an ambulance.
Benko sounds distraught during parts of the almost 15-minute call and seems to whimper as she tells the dispatcher: “I don’t know if there was a weapon out, or what happened, but like he has — he just wouldn’t shoot unless something was seriously wrong, so that’s why I’m just terrified.”
Khill comes on the line later and tells the dispatcher that the victim was gasping so he tried to do CPR. He also says it doesn’t look like the man he shot was carrying a gun, although he did have “knives.”
Benko testified in court Wednesday that she was woken up that night by a “cold, loud, echoing bang” and was afraid someone had broken into the house.
“Pete, Pete, did you hear that?” she recalled saying, as she shook him awake. Then they looked and saw lights on inside the truck parked in the driveway.
I was hoping Pete would shoot first.– Melinda Benko, wife of Peter Khill
Benko testified that she heard her husband get his shotgun and head outside in just a T-shirt and boxers, while she stood frozen in fear at the window.
She remembered being temporarily blinded by a flash of light, then hearing muffled shouting before seeing sparks shooting out into the pitch-black night. She said seeing the sparks and hearing a loud bang caused her to “freak out” and call 911.
“I didn’t know who shot … I was hoping Pete would shoot first if he had to,” she said from the witness box.
Wife worried about break-ins
Benko told the court the shooting happened just days after two separate incidents where she was home alone and heard loud beeping noises and grinding gears as if someone was trying to unlock the back door by using its keypad to punch in the code.
Both times when she went to the door, she opened it to find no one was there.
Still, she said, it unnerved her so much that she told Khill when he returned from a business trip and he changed the combination.
Khill’s trial is being closely watched by members of the Six Nations of the Grand River, including Chief Ava Hill.
It raises many of the same legal issues that were involved in the controversial trial of the man accused of killing Indigenous man Colten Boushie.
In that case, an all-white jury in Saskatchewan reached a not-guilty verdict
The jury in this case includes at least one non-white person.
The trial is expected run for three or four weeks and continues Thursday.