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ASIRT Investigation reveals a series of life-threatening incidents police officers overcame to arrest suspects

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From the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT)

RCMP officers acted reasonably in shootings

On Oct. 13, 2017, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding two officer-involved shootings that occurred the same day during a continuing event.

The first officer-involved shooting resulted in a minor gunshot wound to a 20-year-old woman. The second officer-involved shooting resulted in serious injuries to a 20-year-old man. Evidence obtained during the investigation included statements from civilian witnesses, EMS personnel, all involved officers and the occupants of the stolen vehicles, as well as radio communications and multiple available video recordings of portions of the events.

On Oct. 13, 2017 at 9:14 a.m., a man called RCMP to report that he had just been involved in a dispute with another man driving a light-coloured Chevrolet truck and when he attempted to confront the driver, the man threatened him with a large knife. There was a female passenger in the truck. When police ran the licence plate provided and contacted the registered owner, it was determined that the truck had been stolen from the Didsbury area earlier that morning.

At 1:30 p.m., the first man and woman picked up a second man in Innisfail who had just been released on bail, having been arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle the day before. They did so in the stolen vehicle seen earlier in the day in Sundre.

At approximately 3:15 p.m., the son of the stolen truck’s owner called RCMP to report that he had spotted the stolen truck in Sundre and was following it. In response, the driver of the stolen truck rammed the son’s car and attempted to run him over when he exited his vehicle. The man threw himself out of the way, but he was struck and sustained minor injury to his leg. The female passenger waved a large knife and threatened to kill the son.

A short time later, officers came across the truck, and unsuccessfully tried to conduct a traffic stop. As officers pulled alongside, the driver could be seen wearing sunglasses and a bandana covering his nose and mouth. The officers terminated the pursuit as both trucks headed west of Sundre but shortly thereafter, they saw the stolen truck driving on a rural road. The driver taunted police as he passed them. Due to concerns for public safety, police did not initiate a pursuit.

The same officers encountered the stolen truck being driven in Caroline but, again, no pursuit was initiated. Shortly thereafter, the officers followed as the truck was driven into a field. The driver turned around and drove back in the direction of the officers who exited their vehicle and drew their service pistols. The truck drove a wide arc around them, so neither officer fired.

At approximately 3:45 p.m., other officers saw the stolen truck travel north on Hwy 22, just west of Caroline, and followed. Police unsuccessfully tried to set up spike belts at two locations but the stolen vehicle avoided them, in one case driving directly at an officer, who had to take evasive action to avoid being struck.

A pursuit was declared shortly after. While followed by two separate police vehicles with emergency lights activated, speeds reached 170-180 km/hr. As the pursuit headed eastbound on TWP Road 400, the woman in the back seat of the stolen truck threw a child’s car seat and other items onto the roadway, creating hazards and attempting to deter the police from continuing their pursuit. The first man was driving and the second man was in the front passenger seat.

As the stolen truck was pursued eastbound onto TWP Road 394, it approached a driveway where an officer had parked his police vehicle and extended a spike belt across both lanes, holding the line in the north ditch. The first man drove the stolen truck left of centre and turned into the north ditch, driving towards the officer. He suddenly pulled back onto the road and the officer ran back beside his police vehicle and drew his pistol. The stolen truck entered the south ditch, drove over the driveway approach past the officer and police vehicle, avoiding the spike belt and returned back to the road, moving eastbound.

Instead of continuing eastbound, the truck swung around to face back towards the officer, his police vehicle and two other officers who had arrived and placed their police vehicles to partially block off any westbound escape. The truck headed directly towards the officer who had earlier placed the spike belt as he stood by his police vehicle. The officer believed that the driver was purposely trying to “run” him over as there was no reason to proceed westbound and engage with police when the eastbound road was unobstructed. At approximately 4:27 p.m., as the truck drove towards the officer, fishtailing and colliding with the police vehicle and coming within feet of the officer, the officer and one other fired their service pistols. A bullet grazed the top of the back of the woman’s head causing a relatively minor laceration.

The truck drove over the spike belt, which destroyed the passenger side tires, leading the truck to flee on its rims at approximately 60-70 km/hr. As an officer tried to set up another spike belt, the truck drove at the officer, who had to retreat to the ditch. At 4:31 p.m., as the truck approached the Hwy 20 intersection, an officer was authorized to force the truck off the road. The officer rammed the side of the truck, forcing it into the north ditch with the police vehicle on one side and a fence on the other. The two men climbed through the passenger window and fled to a nearby field, leaving the injured woman in the back seat.

When the two men came upon a farmhouse, they observed a woman run inside. They approached and kicked in the door to the home where two women were present with children. When they found out the women had no keys to the vehicles on the property, the men took their cellphones so they could not call for assistance, and fled to a second rural residence. They broke into vehicles, obtained a garage door opener to gain access to the residence and obtained keys to a black Ford F250 truck that they then attempted to flee in. The second man was now driving with the first man in the front passenger seat. As they were driving out, an officer driving towards them twice attempted to pin them in on a fence but the stolen truck suddenly reversed and rammed the police truck with enough force to set off the airbags, disabling the police vehicle.

The newly stolen truck was driven through the field and down the 500-metre driveway to access Hwy 20, approaching a point where two officers were placing a spike belt. The truck drove off the roadway into the ditch where one armed officer was. A second armed officer moved forward towards the truck on the south grass shoulder of the driveway. The vehicle suddenly accelerated, re-entered the roadway, swerved aggressively to avoid the spike belt and drove directly towards the second officer. Had he not taken evasive actions, it is beyond dispute that the officer would have been struck by the middle of the front grill of the stolen truck. Available video confirmed that the stolen truck came within what appears to be a matter of 12 to 18 inches of the officer, causing both officers to discharge their service pistols.

Unknown to the officers, the 20-year-old driver sustained two gunshot wounds that left him unable to feel or move his legs. The truck briefly came to a stop in the south ditch, just short of Hwy 20. When the passenger looked through the broken rear window and appeared to reach for something, officers shouted commands to stop. The passenger reached his leg over the center console and “floored” the accelerator, causing the officers to resuming firing.

The truck drove out of the east ditch, crossed Hwy 20 and went into the west ditch where it became immobilized in a grove of trees. Police provided medical care to the injured driver until Emergency Medical Services arrived. Ultimately, the man was airlifted to hospital by STARS air ambulance.

Of the two shots sustained, one shattered the man’s left forearm and the second shot entered his left shoulder shattering bone before becoming lodged in his spine resulting in permanent paralysis.

Having reviewed the comprehensive investigation, Susan Hughson, QC, Executive Director for ASIRT, has determined that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the officers involved in these events committed any criminal offence(s). As such, no officer will be charged.

Under the Criminal Code, a police officer is authorized to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to perform his or her lawful duties. An officer may only respond with lethal force in circumstances where he or she reasonably believes that there is an imminent risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the officer or any other person. An officer may also use lethal force to prevent flight in limited circumstances.

At the time of this incident, the involved officers were all acting in the lawful execution of their duties. There were more than reasonable grounds to believe that some or all of the occupants of both the first and second stolen trucks had committed indictable criminal offences.

In the entire course of these events, the conduct of the three individuals could objectively demonstrate the danger and significant risk to public. Multiple videos combined with the evidence of both civilian and police witnesses demonstrated that the three occupants of both stolen trucks were reckless, motivated to do whatever was necessary to evade apprehension and, in those circumstances, extremely dangerous. Both men reported that it had not been their intention to hit anyone. However, their conduct, at a minimum, would have created a reasonable apprehension that this was their intent. One person had been threatened and struck, another had been threatened with death, and the stolen vehicles had been driven towards officers in a manner that could easily have been interpreted as an intention to run them down.

Based on the actions of these three individuals, it is only good fortune that no civilian nor police officer was seriously injured or killed. At the time of the first officer-involved shooting, the circumstances created an objectively reasonable belief that there was an imminent risk of grievous bodily harm or death and, as such, officers were entitled to use lethal force. At the time of the second officer-involved shooting, once again, the circumstances created an objectively reasonable belief that there was an imminent risk of grievous bodily harm or death and both officers were entitled to use lethal force to address that threat.

Although the injury is believed to have occurred by the time of the attempted flight with the assistance of the passenger, based on all the evidence, it was subjectively and objectively reasonable to resort to lethal force to prevent further flight. The force used was necessary for the purpose of protecting the officer or any other person from imminent or future death or grievous bodily harm. Both men had repeatedly demonstrated a willingness, over a very limited period of time, to risk causing death or grievous bodily harm to both civilians and officers to further their flight and evade apprehension, and had engaged in a protracted crime spree doing so. The risk was not hypothetical. The threat was relatively immediate. In their multiple encounters that day, they had threatened and/or endangered life. If anything, their conduct had been escalating. The rapid forward movement of the vehicle was reasonably inferred to be an attempt at continued flight and the vehicle had a clear path forward. The only means at their disposal in that moment was the use of lethal force. Given the demonstrated conduct of both men, they needed to be stopped before they seriously injured or killed someone. The fact that they had not done so to that point was the result of good luck, nothing more. It was reasonable to act in the circumstances.

ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently, and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person. This mandate includes incidents involving discharge of a firearm that would likely have resulted in serious injury or death had the person been struck.

Crime

RCMP nab Red Deer driver doing 112 km/h on 30th Avenue

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From Red Deer RCMP: Red Deer RCMP stop driver travelling at extreme speed

Red Deer, Alta. – On June 8, 2019, Red Deer RCMP caught a driver travelling 112 km/h in a 60 km/h zone.  

In response to community complaints, Red Deer RCMP were conducting speed enforcement on 30 Avenue near 55 Street when they observed the driver driving at a high rate of speed at approximately 9:30 p.m. The vehicle was stopped, and the driver was unable to provide valid proof of insurance, or valid drivers licence. As a result of the offences, the male driver has been summoned to court to appear before a judge.

Four other vehicles were stopped for speeding at the same location and issued violation tickets. 

“Citizens making the reckless decision to travel at such extreme speeds pose a serious risk the public.”  said Sergeant Mike Zufferli with the Red Deer RCMP Traffic Unit. “These extreme speeds show a wanton disregard for the safety of others, and we continue to work everyday to address it, through enforcement and education.” 

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Crime

2 youth arrested, police looking for 3rd suspect after firearm reported in middle school

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Red Deer RCMP respond to threat at Eastview Middle School

On June 11, 2019, at approximately 3:22 p.m. Red Deer RCMP responded to a call at Eastview Middle School after three male youth entered the school with a possible firearm.  

Eastview Middle School, along with surrounding schools, were put into lockdown as a result. 

There were no injuries as a result of this incident.   

RCMP cleared the building and the suspects fled. Two of the three suspects have been apprehended and charged with firearms related offences. RCMP continue to search for the remaining suspect. 

A replica firearm was later located. 

RCMP continue to investigate this incident and are asking for the public’s assistance. If you have information about this investigation, please call the Red Deer RCMP at 403-343-5575, or your local police detachment. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at www.P3Tips.com or by using the “P3 Tips” app available through the Apple App or Google Play Store.

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