RCMP acted reasonably in fatal 2017 arrest, no charges will be laid: ASIRT
Alberta’s police watchdog has ruled that the RCMP acted reasonably during an arrest where one man died on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation in 2017.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said on Jan. 7, 2017, police executed a number of search warrants at several residences on the First Nation in an effort to find three men who were wanted after a murder that occurred three days earlier.
At the time, RCMP said Canada-wide warrants were issued for Ralph Stephens, 27, John Stephens, 29, and Deangelo Powderface, 22, in connection with the death of Lorenzo Bearpaw, 27.
Stephens was believed to have been in possession of a firearm.
At around 4 p.m., members of the RCMP Emergency Response Team executed search warrants at neighbouring homes. Police said the victim and his brother, also wanted for the same homicide, lived in one of the homes.
Police said they found the brother on the first floor without incident and contained more people as they moved further into the home.
According to ASIRT, police asked if there was anyone else in the basement of the home and were told there wasn’t.
WATCH: (January 2017) While executing arrest warrants for three men wanted in connection with the death of Lorenzo Bearspaw, shots were fired. ASIRT is now investigating.
Police said they then moved into the basement announcing they were police and had a warrant. They were only in the basement for a short time when officers said they heard a man yell to leave them alone and a single shot was fired through a wall, “narrowly missing one of the officers.”
“The officers called out ‘shots fired’, returned to the main floor and, after throwing a tear gas canister into the basement, evacuated the residence,” the news release from ASIRT said.
As officers were working to contain the residence, one officer went toward the treeline to set up a rear sniper point. He said he was about 12 metres from the house when he heard another shot, believed to have come from the southwest corner of the basement.
“Almost immediately, a woman climbed out of the window,” according to the release. “As the officer yelled commands for her to walk towards him, the 27-year-old man emerged from the same basement window with a shotgun in his hands, carried at waist level and pointing in the direction of the officer and the young woman.”
The officer fired a single shot, hitting Stephens in the torso. He collapsed and police moved in to secure him.
Since tear gas was poring out of the basement window, police moved Stephens away from the home and put him on a jacket on the snow-covered ground to prevent hypothermia.
He was put into an RCMP vehicle and transported to an ambulance waiting a short distance away. The ambulance wasn’t any closer because the house and the property hadn’t been cleared yet, police said.
He was taken to a Calgary hospital where he was declared dead. According to ASIRT, Stephens had suffered a single gunshot wound to his stomach that injured internal organs and his spinal cord and cut through the main abdominal artery.
“This resulted in substantial hemorrhage and death,” the release said. “Toxicology was positive for methamphetamine.”
Police said the gun was later found loaded with three unfired shells. The 12-guage tactical shotgun’s pump was reportedly in the forward firing position.
“The evidence is unequivocal that the 27-year-old man called out and fired upon the officers as they descended the stairs to clear the basement,” ASIRT said. “The only other person in the basement was the unarmed woman who had exited the residence just ahead of the man.”
WATCH: (January 9, 2017) After RCMP executed arrest warrants, John Stephens was taken into custody and Ralph Stephens was shot.
ASIRT ruled the officer was “lawfully placed and acting in the lawful execution of his duty. In the circumstances” and that the force used was both reasonable and authorized under the Criminal Code.
No charges will be laid.
ASIRT is called in to investigate any police activity that results in injury or death.
— With files from Erika Tucker, Global News
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