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UPDATE: Man who killed Abbotsford officer in Nelson sentenced to 5 years

Alex Willness was previously found guilty of manslaughter in the 2020 death of Allan Young
Abbotsford police officer Const. Allan Young died after a confrontation with Alex Willness in downtown Nelson in 2020. Willness was found guilty of manslaughter. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department

Alex Willness has been sentenced to five years in prison after he was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of an Abbotsford police officer in Nelson in 2020.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lindsay Lyster handed down the sentence on Jan. 11 in Nelson. She subtracted 403 days of time already served and added a lifetime firearms prohibition.

On July 16, 2020, Willness, 25 at the time, hit Const. Allan Young on the head with a skateboard during a downtown confrontation. Young, who was off duty while visiting Nelson, died five days later.

In the trial, which took place in March and April of 2023, there was no debate about whether or not Willness hit Young, or about whether it was the blow from the skateboard that killed Young.

But the circumstances surrounding the act, and how to interpret a video of the incident, were argued differently by Crown and defence, the latter of whom said Willness was acting in self defence.

That argument didn’t convince Lyster, who on June 20, 2023, found Willness guilty of manslaughter.

Manslaughter means homicide that was not planned and there was no intent to kill.

In sentencing Willness on Jan. 11, Lyster said one of the mitigating factors is the remorse he expressed in court. Also in Willness’ favour, Lyster said, were his attempts (“which have been halting at times”) to overcome his alcoholism, from which he had suffered since he was a young teenager.

An aggravating factor, Lyster said, was Willness’ extremely violent behaviour in his attack on Young and his aggressive behaviour to bystanders who tried to apprehend him.

The incident took place on Baker Street in Nelson across from the Cantina del Centro restaurant late in the evening. Willness and some friends were walking up the street, drunk, yelling and swearing, and Willness was loudly threatening to kill someone unnamed. Young, 55, and other customers on the Cantina patio told them to be quiet, and a Cantina server threatened to call the police. Young walked onto the street and confronted Willness, who hit Young three times with his skateboard, once on the head.

Lyster said intoxicated people should be held responsible for the harm they do while intoxicated.

“I reject the Defense’s submission that Mr. Willness’ self-induced intoxication reduces the moral culpability of his actions,” she said, adding that Willness had only hours before been released from the drunk tank and “chose to get drunk again. His self-induced intoxication played a crucial role in his risk-taking, aggressive and violent behaviour that night.”

Lyster also rejected the Defense’s position that Young provoked Willness to attack him.

“It was Mr. Willness, not Mr. Young, who was looking for a fight. Mr. Young was trying to intervene to stop Mr. Willness’ offensive behaviour.”

Another aggravating factor in sentencing, Lyster said, was Willness’ use of a skateboard as a weapon, especially since after he had hit Young once, he hit him again on the head while Young was in a crouched and vulnerable position on the ground.

In an email to the Nelson Star, the Abbotsford Police Department reacted to the sentencing of their late colleague.

“Nothing will bring Const. Young back to his loving family or back to us at the Abby PD. Cst. Young and his family remain in our thoughts and our hearts.

“We are glad that the prosecution resulted in the conviction of Mr. Willness for manslaughter and that he has been sentenced.”

Lyster said she has heard a victim impact statement from Young’s wife Kimberly Young, whom he had recently married, and who was with him on the Cantina patio and witnessed the attack.

“Kimberly lost the love of her life,” Lyster said. “She was forced to take Allan off life support at a time when they were looking forward to spending the rest of their lives together. Since his death, Kimberly has been plagued by nightmares, lack of sleep, and anxiety, which she has found crippling.”

Lyster also described an impact statement from Young’s daughter Mackenzie Young, who was 18 when her father died.

“Mackenzie saw her father lying in his hospital bed. She saw him lying there in a state no child should ever have to see their father in. Those images play out in her memory every night before she falls asleep. And they haunt her in her nightmares. Only now, some three years since her father’s death, does she feel she is finally able to start putting her life back together.”

Lyster said she also heard statements from bystanders who witnessed the attack on Young, many of whom were “traumatized and deeply affected … They will never forget what they saw, heard, and felt.”

Lyster said she also heard a pre-sentence report on Willness’ childhood and youth. His mother, pregnant as a result of a sexual assault, gave birth to him at age 13. He never had a relationship with his parents and was raised by his grandparents who provided a stable home as a child. But as a teenager he attempted unsuccessfully to reunite with his mother, went back to live with his grandparents, and started drinking. In high school he was troubled and bullied and drank heavily. As a young adult he was frequently homeless and was admitted to hospital twice for brief periods for mental-health problems, and had trouble keeping jobs.

Willness has a criminal record, with convictions in 2013 of assaulting a police officer, mischief, breach of probation, and impaired driving, and a further conviction for mischief in 2019.

Lyster said the Crown had asked for a sentence for Willness of six-to-eight years.

The Criminal Code contains no minimum or maximum sentence for manslaughter if a firearm was not used. Lyster explained that sentencing for manslaughter is complex, and historically sentences appear on a spectrum between suspended sentence and life in prison, depending on the circumstances.


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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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