02/05/2018 11:45 EST | Updated 02/05/2018 12:01 EST

'Raised the gun in the air and fired:' Saskatchewan farmer describes shooting

BATTLEFORD, Sask. — A Saskatchewan farmer on trial for the shooting of an Indigenous man says he fired his gun to scare off a group of people who drove onto his farm.

Gerald Stanley told the jury in his second-degree murder trial Monday that he and his son heard an SUV with a flat tire drive into the yard near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016.

He told court the pair heard an all-terrain vehicle start and thought it was being stolen.

He said he grabbed a handgun, normally used to scare off wildlife, when the SUV didn't leave the yard and fired two or three shots into the air before popping the cartridge to make sure it was disarmed.

He testified he went up to the SUV because he thought it had run over his wife and tried to reach for the keys in the ignition when the gun went off.

Colten Boushie, who was 22, was sitting in the driver's seat of a grey Ford Escape when he was shot in the back of the head.

"I was reaching in and across the steering wheel to turn the key off and — boom — this thing just went off," Stanley testified.

"Was your finger on the trigger?" his lawyer, Scott Spencer, asked.

"No," Stanley answered.

Before the shooting, Stanley said he felt "pure terror." In the back of his mind, Stanley said, were two other farmers who had been murdered in the area when he first moved there.

Court has heard an SUV carrying five people had a flat tire and drove onto the Stanley farm. The driver testified the group had been drinking during the day and tried to break into a truck on a neighbouring farm, but went to the Stanley property in search of help with the tire.

Spencer told the jury in his opening statement earlier Monday that Boushie was the victim of "a freak accident that occurred in the course of an unimaginably scary situation." He told jurors Boushie's death wasn't justified, but they must put themselves in Stanley's shoes.

"Is it unreasonable to fire warning shots when the intruders have tried to steal, taken a run at you with their vehicle, crashed into your vehicle — from Gerry's perspective intentionally — almost run over your wife?" Spencer asked.

"Is it reasonable to fire warning shots to get them to just leave? That's what it comes down to in many ways."

Stanley was faced with intruders and didn't have the luxury to wait for police, Spencer said.

"This was not a justified death. This death is not justified legally or morally. It is never, never right to take somebody's life with a gun. But that's not what this case is about," he argued.

"This is really not a murder case at all. This is a case about what can go terribly wrong when you create a situation which is really of the nature of a home invasion. For farm people, your yard is your castle and that's part of the story here."

Although he young people who drove onto the Stanley farm aren't on trial, they created a panic situation, Spencer said.

"If they would have just stopped — stopped drinking, stopped drinking and driving, stopped breaking into people's places, stop vandalizing stuff, stop crashing into things. Just walk away."

The Crown wrapped up its case last week.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter