Collingwood man's name cleared after manslaughter charges dropped

A Collingwood, Ont. man who shot and killed two masked men during a home invasion two years ago is free.

The Crown has withdrawn manslaughter charges against 57-year-old Cameron Gardiner for the deaths of 52-year-old Dean Copkov and 42-year-old Donovan Bass.

The details of the case were previously under a publication ban that was lifted on Tuesday.

According to court documents, Gardiner's lawyers argued the shootings were in self-defence.

"When I first met Cameron, he was a broken man. He didn't understand why he was in custody. Once he recounted his story, I said, 'we are going to fight for you, and you need to lead us," said criminal attorney Elliott Willschick.

Court documents reveal that three men kicked in the backdoor of Gardiner's townhouse on Matthew Way in the early morning hours on Jan. 22, 2019. Gardiner and his girlfriend were bound with zip ties and held at gunpoint. Gardiner's dog was zip-tied to his leg.

A security system inside the home linked to Gardiner's son's phone alerted him to the situation. He went to the townhouse and intervened.

The documents state Copkov and Bass were fatally shot during a struggle while the third man escaped through an upstairs window and ran out through the backyard.

Gardiner was taken away in handcuffs by police and was initially charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Police said officers collected evidence and charged Gardiner appropriately, however, it's up to the courts to decide whether they have a reasonable prospect of a conviction.

His attorney said the case should serve as a warning to others. "I think other Canadians should be a little concerned after hearing about this case because they will have to think twice if they are ever in a situation like that. What I would ask other Canadians to remember while this was unfair, our justice system eventually prevailed," Willschick said.

Gardiner spent nearly 800 days either in jail or under strict bail conditions.

Police said no other charges are pending against him.