In the News: Family of Jon Styres Suing Man Who Killed Him for $2m

Khill was acquitted of murder this week, but is also facing a civil suit over his actions that night.

Dan Taekema · CBC News · Posted: Jun 28, 2018 3:04 PM ET | Last Updated: July 8

The spouse and two daughters of Jon Styres are suing the man who shot and killed him for damages totalling more than $2 million, alleging Peter Khill shot the First Nations man twice as he "fled."
Court documents filed on Jan. 31, 2018 lay out the suit filed by Hamilton's Hooper Law Offices on behalf of Lindsay Hill and her daughters, age two and four.
Khill, a former Canadian Forces reservist, admitted he shot and killed Styres in Feb. 2016. He was found not-guilty of second-degree murder Wednesday after a two-week trial in Hamilton Superior Court.


The civil lawsuit alleges Khill shot Styres "as he fled the property with the intention to kill." None of the allegations in the suit have been tested in civil court. The allegations in the lawsuit contain some significant differences from the evidence heard in the criminal trial.


Brendan Sullivan, a lawyer with the Harvey Katz Law Office, explained civil cases come with a "much lower bar" for proof for plaintiffs than the criminal case standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt."


But, he added, what Styres was doing on Khill's property could play a role in the findings of a judge or jury if they feel he contributed to his own injuries.


One other significant difference concerns self-defence, something Khill relied upon in the criminal trail but might not be able to when it comes to a lawsuit.


"Self-defence is not a way to explain your actions in a civil matter to absolve you of all responsibility," Sullivan wrote in an email to CBC News. "It can only reduce the amount of responsibility you have."


Suit notes no 911 call

During that trial, court heard how Khill and his wife were woken up around 3 a.m. by a loud banging noise, looked outside and realized the lights were on in their truck. Khill then grabbed his 12 gauge shotgun from a bedroom closet, loaded it with two shells and went outside to confront whoever was out there.


The suit notes "Khill did not attempt to contact the authorities prior to confronting Jon Styres" a fact Khill testified during his criminal trial was true, saying he was following his military training, which did not include calling 911.


Jurors in that trial were told Khill found Styres, a 29-year-old from Ohsweken on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, bent over the front seat of his truck and yelled "Hey! Hands up!"

That command marks a second significant contradiction between trial evidence and allegations in the civil suit. The first being that Styres was shot while fleeing and the the second that Khill fired "suddenly and without warning" during the confrontation.

During his testimony in the criminal trial, Khill told court that as Styres turned he raised his hands, leading him to believe the other man had a gun, so he fired twice, hitting him once in the chest and a second time through the back of his right shoulder, from close range.

Styres did not have a gun, jurors were told. He did have a folding knife, but it was closed and found in the pocket of his pants.

The criminal trial did not hear from any experts who testified Styres was fleeing when he was shot, but prosecutors and defence lawyer Jeff Manishen sparred over the position he was facing when Khill fired.

Both a blood spatter expert and doctor who reviewed notes from Styres' autopsy said it was their opinion he was shot while facing into the truck, although they allowed it was possible he was facing slightly away and toward Khill when he was hit by the two, lethal blasts.


Mental distress

The suit claims damages of $2 million, aggravated and punitive damages of $250,000, pre and post-judgement interest and any other costs the court deems just.

Even if the court does not agree Khill committed assault and battery when he shot Styres with the intention to cause injury or death, the suit asks that he at least be found to have acted negligently for firing in an enclosed space and causing Styres to be accidentally shot.

"The defendant knew or ought to have known that his actions of using a firearm in the confrontation would result in harm," it states.

Damages are based on a loss of income and services from Styres as well as a loss of "care, guidance and companionship as the result of his death."

Styres' family is also claiming damages for negligent infliction of mental distress, and psychological damage.

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