As Edmonton police chased a U-Haul through the streets of downtown two years ago, they believed they were in the middle of something far bigger than a typical pursuit.
Sgt. Scott Innes led the Edmonton police tactical team on the night of Sept. 30, 2017. On Wednesday morning, he testified at Abdulahi Sharif’s attempted murder trial.
He described chasing a U-Haul and seeing pedestrians hit by the truck.
“It was at that time, I had my opinion that this was not just our regular police type of pursuit or criminal flight. I believed that that was an intentional act,” Innes testified.
He and his team were brought in to the case earlier that evening. They gathered near Commonwealth Stadium after hearing Const. Mike Chernyk was rammed by a car and stabbed.
The suspect had fled and canine teams were not able to track him. Innes told court he remained worried.
A few hours later, Innes was proven correct.
He and his team had just left the Commonwealth Stadium area when they heard over the police radio that officers had tracked down the suspect in the assault and were chasing him. He was now driving a U-Haul and it was heading downtown.
The tactical team took over the pursuit. It was then up to Innes to make decisions on what to do next.
Once the U-Haul reached Jasper Avenue and about 101 Street, Innes and his partner, Sgt. Jay Reineld, were about four vehicles behind. Because of heavy traffic, they weren’t able to get right up to the U-Haul.
The two decided to turn on 108 Street to see if they could get ahead of the U-Haul or make up ground in a different way.
They approached an alleyway just north of Jasper.
“Sgt. Reineld slowed the vehicle down. That’s when I observed the headlights of the U-Haul vehicle driving east in the laneway just off Jasper Avenue,” Innes said.
Reineld also testified at Sharif’s trial. He was behind the wheel and said the next few moments happened very fast.
He thought about stopping the police suburban perpendicular to the alley, blocking the speeding U-Haul. However, the truck was driving so fast, he said he didn’t think that would work out well for either himself or Innes.
Instead, he turned the suburban head-on towards the oncoming U-Haul, but couldn’t complete the maneuver before the truck reached him. Reineld then accelerated and hit the driver’s side of the U-Haul with the police suburban. He hoped the collision would force the U-Haul to spin out, but the cube van was too heavy and was moving too quickly and sped off, court heard.
Innes and Reineld’s vehicle suffered some damage but they managed to drive back to Jasper Avenue, They got to 107 Street just in time to see the U-Haul race through the intersection and hit two women standing on the sidewalk.
Innes testified he saw one woman fall where she was hit and then he saw another person fly across the westbound lanes of Jasper and hit a vehicle tire.
“I did not recognize that as a human body at the time. Initially I thought it was the garbage bag from the garbage container that was sliding across the road,” Innes said.
“The speed at which the female pedestrian slid across the road and then the impact that it made when it hit the stationary vehicle waiting to turn was significant enough to actually move that vehicle — to rock it back and forth.”
Innes then became emotional in his testimony.
“My impression at that time would be that she was deceased. It was at that time, I made I think the hardest decision I ever did. I knew I had to leave her.”
In a recording played in court, a clearly agitated Innes ordered police officers to disable the U-Haul using any means necessary.
Officers hit the U-Haul and flipped it over. Innes rounded the corner at 107 Street and saw the “chaotic” scene and remained worried.
He checked the open cargo area of the overturned U-Haul and found no explosive device.
The suspect was Tasered and arrested by the tactical team members and has been in custody ever since.
Sharif faces 11 charges including five of attempted murder.
The accused is representing himself and has yet to question any of the witnesses who have testified at his trial.