Luke Stephen folded his arms and turned in his seat in the witness box, to avoid looking directly at the lawyer defending the man charged with killing his best friend.
It was the second day of the road rage trial of Langley resident Brent Parent, who is charged with multiple criminal offences in the March 2008 hit-and-run that killed 21-year-old Silas O’Brien.
Some of the shape of defence lawyer Vincent Michaels’ case could be discerned from his intense cross-examination of Stephen during Tuesday’s B.C. Supreme Court hearing in New Westminster.
Stephen testified that he, O’Brien and a third friend, Sam Dooley were driving to the airport around 2 a.m. in a Chevy Silverado SUV to catch a flight to Hawaii when they came upon a white Ford pickup.
When they tried to pass the pickup truck in the 25800 block of 16 Avenue in Langley, Stephen said the truck slammed into the SUV and forced it off the road.
Then he said the truck returned a few minutes later while the three friends were standing on the side of the road and suddenly swerved at them, hitting O’Brien.
“We were waving our arms and yelling ‘stop, stop, stop’,” Stephen said during his testimony for Crown prosecutor Donna Ballyk.
During his cross-examination by the defence lawyer, Stephen denied that he and one of his friends were acting in a threatening way when the truck returned to the scene of the accident.
“Is it possible you and Dooley rushed the vehicle in a threatening and aggressive manner?” Michaels suggested.
“No,” Stephen said.
He said the three were on the road when they saw the truck coming back, but they stepped on to the shoulder of the road.
Michaels challenged Stephen’s account of the hit-and-run, asking how it was possible the truck could swerve at all three men, who were standing together, and only hit O’Brien.
“I don’t understand,” Michaels said.
“All Silas had to do, if you’re telling the truth, is to step off the shoulder.”
Stephen said the truck missed him and Dooley “by inches.”
“We barely made it,” he said.
“Silas was unable to get out of the way.”
Stephen also rejected Michaels’ suggestion that Dooley, the driver, lost control of the Silverado when he collided with the Ford while trying to pass.
Stephen insisted the Ford kept forcing the Silverado to the side until it was run off the road into a ditch.
He conceded that he told police when the truck came back, it initially slowed down, as if to render assistance.
Stephen denied that the three friends were angry and making threats when they spoke to a couple in a Honda who stopped right after their truck ended up in the ditch.
He specifically denied hearing Dooley use the “f-word” and talk about what the three would do if they caught the person who ran them off the road.
“Would you agree that you were all upset and angry?” Michaels said.
“We were upset,” Stephen said.
Day three of the trial opened with testimony from Jennifer and Bradley Lowe, Aldergrove residents who were coming home from a trip to Oregon, when they saw the truck in the ditch and the three young men standing by the side of the road.
Jennifer Lowe, who was driving, said she went past the young men before her husband noticed the truck in the ditch.
They stopped, backed up and asked the three young men if anyone was hurt or needed assistance. The young men said no. The Lowes resumed their trip home.
Jennifer Lowe said that as she was driving away, she saw vehicle headlights coming towards the three young men that seemed to suddenly swerve as though to avoid someone.
Under questioning by the defence lawyer, both the Lowes said that one young man was on a cellphone, talking loudly and swearing a lot.
She confirmed that during the preliminary hearing she said that the young man “was obviously upset, pacing back and forth and yelling into the phone,” adding that he used the “f-word a few times at least.”
Bradley Lowe also said that the young man on the phone was upset and swearing a lot.
He added that when he asked if anyone was hurt, a second young man said,”No, not unless we find the driver.”
The husband said that when they backed up to talk to the three young men, he could see the headlights of a vehicle down the road from the overturned pickup truck. As they drove away, he said he saw the headlights approaching but could not confirm his wife’s version of events.
“I could not tell for sure. I did not see them swerve.”
The Lowes both described seeing a white Ford pickup truck pull up beside them at the intersection of 16 Avenue and 264 Street. The couple said the truck turned after slowing to stop at the intersection, and did not appear to be travelling at an unusual rate of speed.
The couple contacted police the next day when they heard news reports about the fatality and that the police were looking for witnesses.
Parent, who was 38 at the time, has pleaded not guilty to five road rage-related charges that include criminal negligence causing death, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and leaving the scene of the accident.
He is expected to testify in his own defence.
Prosecutor Ballyk said the evidence will show that immediately after Parent ran O’Brien down, he went home and sat in his hot tub, drinking beer with his brother and talking so loudly that they disturbed a neighbour.
O’Brien and his friends were part of a tight-knit youth group who attended a prayer meeting the night before they left for Hawaii.
O’Brien left behind six siblings, his parents, and many friends.
He also had a girlfriend Megan Williamson, a competitive figure skater with the Langley Skating Club.
The trial has been scheduled for 10 days before B.C. Supreme Court justice Terence A. Schultes.