On December 25, 2015, the Director of Law Enforcement directed ASIRT (Alberta Serious Incident Response Team) to investigate the circumstances surrounding an officer-involved shooting which resulted in the death of a 37-year-old male Red Deer resident.
That day, in the early morning hours, the man attended the residence he shared with his common-law. At that location, it is alleged that he committed several serious violent criminal offences. Following a series of 911 calls, Red Deer RCMP began investigating the matter and information was obtained that suggested that the man might be found operating a stolen truck. RCMP began searching for the man and the stolen vehicle.
An RCMP officer located the stolen truck being operated near Sylvan Lake and activated his emergency equipment to initiate a vehicle stop. The driver of the stolen truck, identified as the affected person, stopped the vehicle in the middle of the road. As the officer prepared to exit the vehicle, without warning, the stolen truck reversed at a high rate of speed and struck the police vehicle. The force used to ram the police vehicle was so significant it resulted in minor injuries to the officer and disabled the officer’s vehicle. The affected person then fled the scene in the stolen truck.
At approximately 12:50 p.m., RCMP received a 911 call reporting that the man had attended the rural home of people he knew in the area, stating he was in trouble for ramming a police vehicle and requesting money, a cell phone, and keys. The residents refused to provide assistance, and the man, unhappy with the refusal to provide assistance, returned to the stolen truck and drove it into the residence and a snowmobile in the yard before driving away.
Officers located the stolen truck abandoned in the Caterpillar (CAT) Finning lot in the Edgar Industrial area in Red Deer. The man had left the truck, entered a CAT 937K front-end loader, and began driving it through the area. He drove through and over a fence gaining access to the Baker Hughes parking lot. There, he struck multiple vehicles with the loader, ramming them and/or flipping them over onto their sides, causing extensive damage. He was located in a nearby field driving the loader into and over stacked hay bales.
RCMP followed the man as he drove the loader through fields and on roadways including driving it on a portion of Highway 2, where he came within feet of civilian vehicles on the roadway. As the loader encountered a substantial amount of traffic in the areas it travelled, RCMP were extremely concerned about public safety and officer safety. In order to ensure public safety, RCMP temporarily closed access to the highway to prevent the front-end loader from coming into close proximity to additional civilian vehicles. A request for the assistance of the RCMP Emergency Response Team and the Calgary Police Service’s HAWCS helicopter was made. It is clear that the RCMP were hoping to resolve the situation without the use of significant force while attempting to divert civilians from the area to ensure their safety.
At approximately 1:30 p.m., two officers, in two separate unmarked police vehicles, were attempting to set up a spike belt on Range Road 273A when the man drove into the area and, upon seeing the officers, drove directly at the police vehicles. As both officers attempted to reposition their vehicles, one officer, operating an unmarked Dodge Charger and facing the oncoming loader, was required to proceed in reverse on the roadway. That officer reversed into a driveway and was followed in by the man in the loader. The second officer, having observed the vehicles turn into the driveway, parked and ran through the trees towards the driveway and yard.
Having followed the first police vehicle into the driveway, the man was able to ram the police vehicle with the loader and push it into a nearby large tree, effectively pinning the officer, who was still inside, and beginning to crush the Charger between the loader and the tree. The man attempted to lower the bucket down onto the roof of the Charger but it became wedged or hung up in the tree and he was unable to do so. The second officer had, by this time, come upon the scene and having observed the attack, he began firing his service pistol at the man in the cab of the front-end loader. Notwithstanding damage to the door of the Charger, the first officer managed to escape the Charger and also fired upon the man in the front-end loader.
Both officers ceased firing when the front-end loader proceeded into a nearby field where it twice moved around in a large circle in the field. Officers in a 4 x 4 vehicle drove up parallel to the front-end loader and observed the man to be slumped on the floor of the cab, motionless. Having concerns for public safety and wanting to get the man medical care as soon as possible, a decision was made to attempt to shoot out the tires to try and slow or stop the loader. An officer discharged his police service weapon at the front left tire of the loader, which had no impact and made it readily apparent that this raised a risk of uncontrolled ricochet, so no additional shots were fired. The front-end loader eventually straightened out, driving into a densely treed area where it knocked over a large tree before becoming lodged.
An officer was able to remove the unresponsive man from the cab, and upon Emergency Medical Services’ arrival and assessment, the man was pronounced deceased.
An autopsy was conducted by the Chief Medical Examiner’s office. It was determined the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds to the torso. Toxicology results found both methamphetamine and amphetamine, a metabolite of methamphetamine, in the man’s blood.
ASIRT executive director, Susan D. Hughson, Q.C., received the completed ASIRT investigation and after a careful review of the evidence has confirmed all the officers involved were lawfully placed, were acting lawfully in the execution of their duties, and the use of force was reasonable and justified.
The man had been ingesting methamphetamine and had engaged in unpredictable, violent acts.The Caterpillar 938K that he was driving has an approximate operating weight of 35,104 lbs, and has the capacity to carry an additional 20,997 lbs. It was approximately 10 feet tall, 9 feet wide, and 24 feet long. It has a top speed of 40 km/hr. The standard tire is a Michelin XHA2, which has a reinforced sidewall and a special rubber compound to reduce tearing. The cab is designed for safety with curved glass and integrated roll cage.
Operating this front-end loader in the manner he did resulted in it becoming a weaponized 35,000 lb blunt instrument that was much more difficult to stop or contain than any other standard vehicle. Even prior to the ramming of the Charger police vehicle, it is my opinion that the officers had a duty to ensure public safety and apprehend the man to render the situation safe.
Importantly, officers did not directly engage the man. Instead, it was the man who escalated the incident by attacking the officers. In doing so, he committed acts objectively capable of causing death or grievous bodily harm.
An officer may use lethal force where he or she reasonably believes that the someone presents a risk of death or grievous bodily harm to another person. In this case, the situation had gone beyond the mere perception of risk. The man’s actions, in ramming the police vehicle while the officer was still inside, pushing it into a tree, and trying to lower the bucket onto the roof of the vehicle, placed that officer at imminent risk of grievous bodily harm or death and only the split second decision to use lethal force prevented that from happening.
The force used was necessary and reasonable in all the circumstances notwithstanding the tragic outcome. 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.
ASIRT would like to take this opportunity to thank those who came forward in response to our request for witnesses. Although not often mentioned, in any ASIRT investigation, the assistance of members of the public can be critical. Those who come forward are just another reflection of the good people in this province.
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, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.