Two RCMP officers who were charged in the shooting death of a 31-year-old man in northern Alberta two years ago are now facing manslaughter charges.
Cpl. Randy Stenger and Const. Jessica Brown of the Whitecourt RCMP detachment were arrested on June 5 and were each charged with one count of criminal negligence causing death.
The court registry now says the officers are charged with manslaughter.
No one from Alberta Justice returned a request for comment, but the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) released a statement on the upgraded charges Thursday.
The police watchdog said responsibility for the case was transferred to prosecutors with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General at the request of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.
“After consultation with the Ontario Crown, on Sept. 3, 2020, a replacement Information was sworn jointly charging both officers with the offence of manslaughter,” said the statement.
“The original Information charging both officers with criminal negligence causing death was withdrawn at the request of the Crown.”
The ASIRT statement said no additional information would be provided because the case is before the courts; the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General also declined comment.
ASIRT has previously said that Clayton Crawford died from multiple gunshot wounds inside a car after a confrontation with police on July 3, 2018.
The Mounties had been investigating another shooting the day before at a home in Valhalla Centre, about 65 kilometres northwest of Grande Prairie.
ASIRT said the officers were looking for a witness or possible victim in that case when they discovered a man sleeping in the driver’s seat of a vehicle parked at a rest stop near Whitecourt.
During the confrontation, the vehicle was “put into motion” and one officer fired a service pistol while the other discharged a carbine rifle, the agency said.
“The vehicle left the rest stop, crossed the highway and entered a ditch a short distance away,” said a news release at the time.
ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson told a news conference on June 8 that Crown prosecutors were consulted for their opinion and her team determined charges were warranted.
Hughson said it was the first time in the Alberta agency’s history that a police-involved shooting resulting in a death led to criminal charges against officers.
Alberta RCMP confirmed Thursday that both officers were suspended with pay after the initial charges were laid.
Stenger, 43, has 12 years of service with the RCMP and 29-year old Brown has four years, according to the police force.