Alberta police watchdog clears Bashaw RCMP in October 2017 fatal shooting

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.
ASIRT has ruled on an October 2017 shooting near Bashaw. File

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) released its report Wednesday on a fatal shooting near Bashaw in October 2017.

ASIRT was asked to investigate after three RCMP officers were involved in an incident that left a 37-year-old man dead.

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According to the report, RCMP received a complaint around 7:40 a.m. Oct. 19, 2017, that a heavy-duty Ford F-250 truck had been stolen from the Keyera Nevis Gas Plant. Shortly after, RCMP were told there was a suspicious vehicle — that matched the description and license plate of the stolen truck — parked on Range Road 235, south of Highway 11.

ASIRT said at 9:21 a.m. that same day, three officers, in full uniform and in marked police vehicles, got to the scene where the truck was thought to be parked. When they approached the truck, police said they saw a man who appeared to be asleep in the driver’s seat.

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The ASIRT report describes how the officers made a plan to arrest the man by placing a spike belt under the truck and arranging their vehicles to block the truck from escaping. Before they opened the door, the officers said they could see what looked to be a used syringe on the console of the truck.

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The independent investigative body said one of the officers opened the truck door, touched the sleeping man and told him he was under arrest. ASIRT said when that officer tried to handcuff the man, he resisted and was able to put the truck in gear.

According to the report, the man had his seatbelt on so the officer was unable to pull him out of the truck. The officer tried to reach in and unbuckle the man’s seatbelt but the man put the truck into reverse and narrowly missed hitting the officers outside of the truck.

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The RCMP member who had been leaning into the truck got caught between the open driver’s side door and the truck as it started backing up. Evidence showed the truck continued to accelerate in reverse and ended up pushing one of the RCMP vehicles into the ditch, causing the police car to roll.

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ASIRT said all three officers yelled at the man to stop but he did not. When the officer in front of the truck could no longer see the officer in the truck, he was afraid his colleague was going to be seriously injured or run over, so he shot at the man behind the wheel three times, and the third officer also shot at the man.

The report states the officer inside the truck was able to get away from the truck safely, and the truck kept rolling into the ditch until it went through a farmer’s cattle gate.

The three officers ran to the truck and found the man had been shot in the head but was still alive, with his foot still on the accelerator.

ASIRT said the three RCMP officers tried to take care of the man before EMS arrived. He was flown by STARS to an Edmonton hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy showed the man died from the gunshot wound to his head and had methamphetamine in his system.

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The ASIRT ruling defended the officers’ choices, saying they gave the man many chances to comply with their commands and that under the Criminal Code, officers “are authorized to use as much force as is reasonably necessary in administration of enforcement of the law.” It said the officers had reason to believe that the officer in the truck was “at an actual risk of grievous bodily harm or death.”

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In its investigation, ASIRT said it interviewed all relevant witnesses including civilians and police, reviewed security video from a nearby home and examined the in-car video from all three RCMP vehicles at the scene.

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