Two members of the RCMP have been charged after an Alberta Serious Incident Response Team investigation of a 2018 shooting near Whitecourt, Alta.
On July 2, 2018, a 31-year-old man, later identified as Clayton Crawford, was inside a home in the northern Alberta hamlet of Valhalla Centre.
According to ASIRT, “unidentified perpetrators” attacked the residence and shots were fired. The person inside the home was injured during the incident while Crawford was able to flee in what police called a very distinctive vehicle.
On July 3, an off-duty RCMP officer found what he believed to be the vehicle in question parked at the Chickadee Creek west stop west of Whitecourt with a man asleep in the front driver’s seat.
ASIRT said RCMP was alerted and officers arrived shortly after noon.
“The officers approached the vehicle and a confrontation occurred, during which the vehicle was put into motion,” ASIRT said in a press release on Monday.
One officer shot a service pistol at the vehicle while a second officer shot a carbine rifle, ASIRT said.
The vehicle crossed the highway and stopped in a ditch a short distance away.
When the RCMP Emergency Response Team arrive to clear the scene, the man was found dead in the vehicle having been shot several times, ASIRT said.
After a “thorough and independent” investigation — and an opinion provided on whether the case met standards for prosecution from the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service — ASIRT director Susan Hughson concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe criminal offences had occurred.
On June 5, Cpl. Randy Stenger, an officer with 12 years of service, and Const. Jessica Brown, who has been an RCMP officer for four years, were each charged with one count of criminal negligence causing death.
Both officers have been released on conditions and are scheduled to appear in court on July 14.
According to a statement from RCMP deputy commissioner Curtis Zablocki, the two have been suspended with pay.
“There is a great responsibility placed in the hands of police officers,” he said. “They are called upon to make split-second decisions in often rapidly-changing and dynamic situations that can have lasting impacts. Those decisions, unfortunately, can sometimes result in a tragic loss of life.”
Zablocki said the two were removed from duty after the shooting, as is RCMP policy. Both members participated in all requirements to return to the job – including a review of the incident and various operational and health evaluations – according to the statement.
Whitecourt is located about 180 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
ASIRT is called in to investigate any police activity that results in injury or death.