On August 3, 2013, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was assigned by the Director of Law Enforcement to investigate an officer-involved shooting that occurred on that date resulting in the death of one man and injury to another.
At approximately 9 p.m. on August 3, an RCMP officer was on duty parked in an unmarked police vehicle on Secondary Highway 780, north of Highway 13 when a passenger in a truck leaned out the window and gave the officer the finger as the vehicle drove past. The passenger was not wearing a seatbelt. The officer followed the truck activating his emergency equipment to conduct a traffic stop. The truck continued a short distance, turned off the road onto an extended private driveway of a rural property, drove forward and eventually came to a stop in front of a private residence in Ma-Me-O Beach. The driver and occupants had no association to this residence.
The police officer, in full uniform, exited his police vehicle and approached the driver’s side window of the truck. The officer spoke to the driver and front passenger about what had happened. Upon questioning, the driver was unable to produce a valid driver’s licence. The officer observed signs of impairment and the driver’s speech was slurred.
The RCMP officer asked the man to exit his vehicle and come to his police vehicle several times so they could talk. While the officer was speaking with the driver, the three adult male sons exited the vehicle and stood outside on the passenger side in front of the unmarked police vehicle and appeared to be talking. One threw a liquor bottle into the open garage area.
As the driver and the police officer were walking towards the police vehicle, the officer advised the driver that he was under arrest for impaired driving. At that point, the driver became more agitated and did not want to accompany the officer, saying “I don’t wanna go”. The officer attempted to take physical custody of the driver at which point a struggle between the officer and the driver commenced.
When a struggle began between the driver and the police officer, the driver’s three sons moved quickly toward the police officer. The officer released the driver and began to retreat away from the advancing men which forced him further away from his police vehicle. He pulled both his service pistol and his pepper spray. He very clearly instructed the three men to get away or he would shoot them. The police officer continued to retreat for a distance of approximately 16 meters while issuing commands for the three men to back off. While the three men advanced, the released driver entered the driver’s seat of the police vehicle where the officer’s shotgun was located. The three individuals continued to advance on the officer. As he continued to back up, he tripped and dropped the pepper spray. When they were within 1.2 – 2.4 meters, fearing for his own personal safety, the police officer fired three rounds from his RCMP service pistol striking two of the advancing men.
After firing the shots, the officer continued to yell to the men to get down and get back or they would be shot. The officer ran around the passenger side of his police vehicle and across the front to get to the driver’s seat. While doing so, the driver threw a small black object in the direction of the officer that was later recovered on the ground near the garage and determined to be a remote control from the police vehicle for a radar device. The officer entered his vehicle and rapidly backed down the driveway stopping at the entrance to the highway and keeping the scene in view. While removing himself from the property, the police officer advised dispatch shots had been fired and requested emergency police assistance and ambulances.
As the police officer waited on the highway at the entrance to the property, someone returned to the truck and proceeded to drive towards the officer’s vehicle. The officer turned onto the highway and was pursued for a short distance by the occupants of the truck. As the officer put distance between himself and the pursuing vehicle, it pulled a U-turn and drove back in the direction of the rural property.
As can be seen, what was an initial traffic stop deteriorated very quickly. From the point that the officer commenced following the vehicle, activating his emergency equipment, to the conclusion of the incident where the officer flees the scene and was pursued, the police vehicle’s Video-in-Car System (VICS) was activated and was audio- and video-recording events. While there is limited video of the incident available, the initial contact having occurred on the far side of the stopped vehicle and the actual shooting having occurred off to the left and behind the police cruiser, the entire contact between the parties can be heard on the audio-recording.
This entire incident, from the first point of direct contact with the driver of the vehicle to the point that the officer backs his vehicle to the entrance to the driveway took less than two and a half minutes. Indeed, from the point the driver was asked to step out of the vehicle to the point the officer is able to re-enter his police vehicle, only approximately one minute and 17 seconds had passed. Based on the available evidence, it can be stated that:
- No racial slurs were ever used by the officer in his dealings with these individuals.
- At no time during the encounter was the driver of the vehicle handcuffed.
- At no time during this entire encounter was a Conducted Energy Device (Taser) used on any of the individuals by this officer.
- Any suggestion that the officer immediately handcuffed the driver and threw him to the ground is not supported by the VICS camera audio-recording.
Given the rural location, it took several minutes for other police to arrive on scene and for a containment area to be set up.
Ultimately, police were able to return to the property. On scene, one adult man, 30 years old, was found deceased. The man had suffered two gunshot wounds, one on the right side of the chest and a second to the left upper abdomen, causing his death. Evidence revealed a high concentration of alcohol in his blood.
Shortly thereafter, a second injured adult man, 41years old, was located some distance away at another property and was taken by ambulance to the highway where he was transported via STARS air ambulance to Edmonton for medical care. He had gunshot wounds with an entrance and exit wound to the left front chest at the armpit and an exit wound below the left shoulder blade near the armpit. At no time did he lose consciousness. Evidence confirmed that he had also been consuming alcohol and had a high concentration of alcohol in his blood.
Approximately an hour and a half later, another officer maintaining one of the containment roadblocks, noted the original suspect vehicle drive up to the roadblock. As the officer spoke with the driver, later confirmed to be the same driver of the vehicle involved in the earlier incident, he noted an overpowering smell of liquor coming from the driver’s breath and he noted slurred speech. The officer told the driver that he was impaired and asked him to exit the vehicle to which he responded “So what”. The driver was advised that he was under arrest for impaired driving and was repeatedly ordered to exit the vehicle. The driver began swearing loudly and refused to get out of the vehicle, becoming combative and punching the officer. A Conducted Energy Device (Taser) was applied but it misfired twice. On the third occasion, it successfully fired and he removed the driver from the vehicle and placed him in handcuffs.
ASIRT Executive Director received the completed investigation and upon reviewing it, forwarded the investigative file to Crown Counsel. After consultation with the Crown, and after very careful review of the evidence, the Executive Director of ASIRT has determined there will be no charges against the officer.
The RCMP police officer was acting properly in the execution of his duties, and the evidence obtained demonstrates that the officer’s use of force in this case, in self-defence, was reasonable and justified in all the circumstances.
This finding in no way diminishes the sad fact that a family has lost their loved one. On behalf of ASIRT, the Executive Director extends condolences to the family and friends of the deceased in relation to this tragic event.