A mid-day act of violence in downtown Nelson that led to a man’s death and a community demanding answers came to a resolution over two years later on Friday.
Miles Halverson was sentenced to five years and six months of jail time in Nelson’s Supreme Court after he pled guilty last September to manslaughter in the 2018 death of Matt Reeder.
Halverson, 55, has been in custody since his arrest on June 5, 2018, when he kicked Reeder in the head on Baker Street, Nelson’s main thoroughfare. Reeder died 30 hours later in a Kelowna hospital.
Deducting time served, Halverson has two years and three months left on his sentence.
In his decision, Justice David Crerar said Halverson was sober and conscious of the choice he was making to kick Reeder on the 600 block of Baker. Nelson police had already broken up a fight between the two men earlier in the day over a popular panhandling spot, and Halverson was incensed to find Reeder still at the location when he later returned.
Halverson, Crerar noted, was wearing steel-toed shoes at the time and likened the act to an assault. Crerar acknowledged Halverson’s remorse as genuine — Halverson wept as he apologized to the court — but sided with the Crown request of five years in his final decision.
Crown counsel Rebecca Smyth said the sentence will bring closure to an act of violence that shocked the community.
“I would anticipate that people are very relieved to see this over because it has had a big impact on local people, including the street community in particular, and also the Nelson Police Department who put a lot of resources into this and worked really hard,” said Smyth.
“It’s nice to see it come to a conclusion where the appropriate evidence led to the appropriate result.”
The sentence falls within a typical range of four-to-six years for manslaughter cases. Crerar cited one case from the Court of Appeal that ended with a seven-year sentence, but also used several other decisions that were closer to the facts of the Halverson case to guide his decision.
Matt Reeder’s father Ken told the Star the verdict was what his family had advocated for to the Crown and defence counsels.
Ken Reeder said his family met with Barb Vincent of the Nelson Police Department’s victim services unit and former officer Chris Duncan, who both suggested a collaboration with the Community Justice Initiatives Association based out of Langley. That organization worked to set up an April 14 video conference between family members and Halverson, who is being held at the Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver.
Reeder described Halverson as emotional, apologetic and remorseful in the meeting. The family’s request for five years of sentence, he said, was so Halverson can benefit from on-site rehabilitation services and forced sobriety.
“I suspect [it was] one of the important factors in the way the sentence was shaped in the sense that it was almost exactly what we were recommending,” said Reeder.
Crerar made reference to the family’s meeting with Halverson in his decision. He also referred to Halverson’s 43 previous convictions, many of which included assaults and breaches of conduct for failure to attend rehabilitation.
Although Halverson was sober when he assaulted Matt Reeder, Crerar said Halverson’s alcoholism and aggression are traits he downplayed following his arrest. Defence counsel Blair Suffredine had previously said Halverson was living on the street because of a domestic argument about alcohol.
Reeder was sitting against a wall and was under the influence of ethanol when Halverson spotted him from his bicycle, stopped and kicked him soccer-style once in the head. A pathology report found Reeder died due to an artery tear in his neck.
The death of Reeder stunned local residents, both its violence as well as when and where it occurred. Members of the city’s street community also mourned the 45-year-old Reeder, who was a talented musician and trained animator but had struggled from substance abuse.
Ken Reeder said his family took solace from knowing his son’s organs helped save four lives in the days after Matt’s death.
“If Miles can benefit in some way from the custody and the programming, that’s going to help us,” he said. “But I don’t believe in closure. I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a son.”
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