On June 30, 2015, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was directed by the Director of Law Enforcement to investigate the circumstances surrounding an RCMP officer-involved shooting that occurred at a work camp near Fox Creek.
On June 30, 2015 at approximately 12:55 a.m., numerous 911 calls were received about an incident that was occurring at a work camp located southwest of Fox Creek. It was reported that a 28-year-old man, armed with a large butcher knife, had injured two people who were believed to be deceased, and was presenting a continuing risk to individuals in the camp. There was also information received that the man had set, or had attempted to set, the camp on fire. Access to the camp, located some distance from Fox Creek, was not easy or quick. It was estimated the camp was approximately a one-hour drive from Fox Creek in normal circumstances on an uneven gravel road.
At approximately 1:15 a.m., two Fox Creek RCMP officers, traveling in separate police vehicles, responded to the call and arrived at the camp together, and a third RCMP officer was en route approximately 13 kilometres away. The two officers parked their marked police vehicles along the road that accessed the camp and started into the camp with their service weapons drawn.
On arrival, an individual matching the description of the man was immediately seen in the northeast corner of the parking area for the camp. Although the two officers shouted directions, the man failed to respond and moved around the camp. While addressing the man, both officers saw a knife in his hand. When the two officers approached the southwest corner of one of the buildings, they located the man crouched behind the corner of the building with the knife held out in front of him. Despite repeated commands to drop the knife and stop, the man lunged at the two officers from a distance of approximately 1.5 metres. Both officers fired at the man, who was shot and fell to the ground, not moving.
At this point, the third officer arrived on scene. A camp worker also approached police and witnessed the events that followed. The third officer armed himself with his carbine rifle and provided cover for the first two officers, maintaining custody and control over the man’s prone body on the ground. The two officers approached the man on the ground to secure the knife and check on his condition.
In contemplation of trying to knock the knife away from the man’s hand and prone body, the first officer holstered his service pistol and produced his baton, while the second officer remained armed with his service pistol. Both officers repeated commands to drop the knife and that he was under arrest, but the man did not respond. With the third officer still covering, the two officers proceeded to move closer to the man to secure the knife. As the first officer prodded the knife with the baton, the man gripped the knife in his hand, rolled over on the ground, got to his feet and lunged at the two officers. At this point, the two armed officers fired their weapons, with the man sustaining additional gunshot wounds. He once again fell to the ground and the officer who was holding his baton immediately grabbed the man’s foot and dragged him away from where the knife had fallen. The man was then secured in handcuffs.
The 28-year-old man sustained multiple gunshot wounds. A total of 12 rounds were fired by the first and second officer during the two confrontations, and the third officer fired once during the second confrontation. The man was transported to hospital where he underwent surgery. His injuries were determined to be serious but not life-threatening.
ASIRT Executive Director Susan D. Hughson, Q.C., carefully reviewed the completed investigation. The evidence very clearly establishes that there are no reasonable grounds, or indeed reasonable suspicion, to believe that any of the officers committed an offence. At the time police were dealing with the man, it was believed he had already killed two people. In those circumstances, at both points when the man lunged at officers with the knife, there were subjective and objective grounds to believe that the man presented a very high risk and that the use of lethal force was not only reasonable but necessary to prevent death or grievous bodily harm to themselves and/or others present. This was undoubtedly a harrowing and horrific incident but, practically speaking, the officers’ attendance and engagement of the man ended the incident before any civilian workers still present were injured or killed.
As the man is expected to go to trial for the events that occurred in the work camp prior to the arrival of the RCMP, no comment will be made regarding what happened prior to the RCMP’s arrival except with respect to the information RCMP received that guided their actions that day.
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.