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Prosecutors drop case against man accused in Nanaimo homeless camp shooting

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The British Columbia Prosecution Service has dropped its case against a 37-year-old man who was accused of shooting a man who was trying to retrieve suspected stolen property from a homeless camp in Nanaimo earlier this year.

Craig Truckle, of no fixed address, was arrested on March 22, more than a week after Clint Smith, 49, was shot in the stomach and seriously injured at the downtown homeless encampment.

Truckle was charged the following morning with one count of pointing a firearm without a lawful excuse.

Smith and six or seven other people visited the encampment in Barsby Park to retrieve property they believed was stolen from Smith's auto repair shop.

A statement from the B.C. Prosecution Service says the charge against Truckle was stayed Wednesday, ending the Crown's case against him due to a lack of evidence and inability to prove the accused was not acting in self-defence.

"Considering all the available evidence and applying the legal elements of self-defence to that evidence, the Crown would be unable to disprove self-defence or defence of others beyond a reasonable doubt," the statement said.

"The Crown could not establish that the accused’s response in defending himself and his group from an unprovoked attack was disproportionate or unreasonable in the circumstances."

GROUP WAS ARMED WITH BATONS, PROTECTIVE GEAR

The altercation began after thieves broke into Smith's business on March 10, stealing several items.

Two days a later, Smith's friend saw what he believed to be one of the stolen items on the side of the road near the homeless camp, according to prosecutors.

Later that afternoon, Smith, his friend and at least five other associates went to the camp, armed with weapons, including metal batons, pieces of wood and protective gear such as slash-proof vests and a motorcycle helmet. Smith was wearing a protective vest, gloves with hardened knuckles and was carrying a collapsible metal baton, according to the BCPS.

Smith began removing items from one of the tents at the encampment when a fight broke out and two campers armed themselves with a .22-calibre rifle and a paintball pistol, prosecutors said.

Truckle pointed the rifle at Smith, who was hitting the other camper over the head with the baton, causing the camper to be sent to hospital with lacerations, the BCPS said.

Smith also pushed the camper and his girlfriend down an embankment and threatened to get a gun and shoot the campers, according to prosecutors.

"At some point, the complainant was shot once in the abdomen," the statement said.

"Another bullet struck the front grill of his truck, which was parked nearby. It is unclear from the available evidence at precisely what point in the altercation this occurred."

CAMPERS ACTED IN SELF-DEFENCE

The Nanaimo RCMP initially recommended charges of assault with a weapon and discharging a firearm with intent to wound, however the prosecution service declined those charges against Truckle, saying it "had concerns regarding the sufficiency of evidence establishing the identity of the accused as the person who shot the complainant."

As the police investigation progressed, Mounties provided evidence identifying Truckle as the shooter, but some of the recent evidence cast "significant doubt" on evidence given by Smith and other witnesses, prosecutors said.

"As the investigation continued, the complainant and his group stopped co-operating with police," the statement said.

Smith was treated in hospital for a single gunshot wound to the abdomen. The bullet was lodged in his pelvis and could not be removed despite three surgeries, according to prosecutors.

He was discharged from hospital 15 days after the incident.

The prosecution service concluded that Truckle and the other camper were surprised by the unannounced attack and were legally entitled to defend themselves, saying it was not unreasonable for the accused to use the rifle to defend himself and the other camper.

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