More details around the fatal shooting at a Red Deer, Alta. Walmart on Dec. 20 were released by RCMP on Monday, including that there were “random shots” fired at people in the parking lot as the pair of accused fled the scene.
The incident led to the death of Charles (Jim) Williams, 69, after an altercation in the south Walmart parking lot in Red Deer around 6:47 p.m. Friday. Williams was with his wife at the time, police said.
RCMP said Monday that the preliminary investigation leads officers to believe robbery was the motivation behind the shooting.
“It looks like the victim was returning to his car, and at that time he was in an altercation with the suspect,” said Insp. Mark Groves.
“At this point, it looks like it was a robbery, an intended robbery.”
Groves said there were “numerous” other shots fired after the initial incident in the parking lot.
“I can say that there was numerous shots shot after Mr. Williams was fatally shot,” said Groves.
“The shooter had engaged two other people in the parking lot and shot at them. He did not strike them fortunately, and then as they departed there was other random shots fired.”
RCMP said that bystanders and members performed CPR on Williams, before he was transported to Red Deer Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
On Friday, in initial discussions with media, RCMP said that the shooting had been targeted, but updated on Sunday to say it was random.
Groves said that the situation was “extremely dynamic,” and that witness reports at the time were what led to that initial conclusion.
Police said a male and female had fled the scene in a black SUV that officers allege they had stolen the day before. RCMP said that they then stole a second vehicle near the Rimbey area at 9:17 p.m. — a red Chevrolet truck.
Both accused were apprehended by officials around 10:30 p.m. Friday, after the two stolen vehicles were spotted by RCMP Air Services near Sylvan Lake, and a spike belt was deployed to stop them near Highway 11.
RCMP had initially said there was no danger to the public on Friday evening. Groves said that while the suspects were still at large at that time, RCMP were trying to cull rumors of a mass shooting.
“We wanted to let everybody know that the culprits who had committed the shooting had left the scene,” Groves said. “What we were dealing with at the scene was the result of the violence that had taken place… the accused had departed.
“The initial messages that were received on social media was such that there was a mass shooting at Walmart and that there were six to eight people being shot. We wanted to immediately quell that information and ensure that was not the case.”
Williams was shot with a modified semi-automatic rifle that had been shortened, Groves said. There are several other firearms charges pending against the accused related to the weapon, he added.
Groves said that while this incident is tragic, he believes Red Deer is still an “extremely” safe city.
“Usually, gun violence involves some criminal element on another criminal element,” Groves said. “To have something like this in our city is very rare.”
“My heart breaks for [the victims]. All those involved.”
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said Monday that the community is “deeply grieving” for the victim.
“This is a highly emotional issue for our community,” Veer said. “Our community is deeply shocked and trying to process the tragedy that occurred Friday in our city.
“I know that our city will continue to pull together in the hours, in the days, in the weeks to come in support of Jim [Williams] and his family.”
Veer also expressed thanks to the first responders from the region for their “professionalism, unwavering compassion, and commitment.”
She added that she knew the Williams family personally from her church.
“I think this is very fair to say this is an absolutely unprecedented tragedy in our community and it has absolutely fuelled fear in our community” said Veer.
“It [has] deeply shaken our community.”
Anyone who needs support following the incident can contact Red Deer Victim Services at 403-406-2345.
Chase Freed, 18, of Red Deer is now facing five charges including second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder while using a firearm.
Crystal Maurice, 30, also of Red Deer, is charged with four offences including accessory after the fact to murder and theft of a motor vehicle.
A court check showed that Maurice has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2016, including several theft and drug possession charges.
Freed is set to appear in court on Jan. 6, 2020.
RCMP said Maurice appeared in court Monday, her case was put over.
She is also due in court on Jan. 9 for a series of unrelated charges, including obstructing a peace officer and failing to comply to probation orders.