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Friday , 27 May 2022

ASIRT investigation into fatal Elk Point RCMP officer-involved shooting concluded

The Investigation into the fatal Elk Point RCMP officer-involved shooting has been concluded by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).

On July 19, 2018, ASIRT was directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a man who was shot during an interaction with officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that same day.

On July 5, 2018, Elk Point RCMP officers were called to a residence in Frog Lake. The occupant of the residence told them that the affected person and the affected person’s brother had come to the house, armed with firearms, and said that the occupant owed them money. He further told officers that the pair had assaulted him with a firearm, rendering him unconscious and causing a wound on his head. The
occupant did not wish to provide a statement about the incident.

The next day, the RCMP received an anonymous tip that the affected person was driving around Frog Lake in a black Dodge Avenger, armed with firearms and threatening to shoot people. RCMP were unable to locate the vehicle at that time.

On July 14, an Elk Point RCMP officer was on patrol in Frog Lake when the occupant from the July 5 incident approached him. The occupant was limping and stated that the previous day the affected person, the affected person’s brother, and two unknown males had come to his home, again stating that he owed them something. The occupant stated that the affected person’s brother and the unknown males beat
him with a baseball bat, and stole his vehicle, a blue Chevrolet Venture. The occupant further said that  the affected person and one of the unknown males were in the possession of firearms, which he described as a sawed-off shotgun and a sawed-off .22 calibre rifle with a clear banana clip.

The next day, the same occupant called RCMP to report that the affected person had come to his house again, this time in a truck along with several other passengers. The occupant indicated that the affected person pointed a gun at him, which caused him to run inside the residence and call police. Police arrived at the occupant’s residence a short time later, and this time he provided a witness statement. Despite
attempts by the RCMP, the affected person could not be located at this time.

On July 16, arrest warrants were issued for the affected person and his brother for the offence of robbery with a weapon, pursuant to s. 344 of the Criminal Code.

On July 18, RCMP received information from a different individual, who indicated that the affected person and his brother had forced him, at gunpoint, to sign over ownership of his vehicle, a black Dodge Avenger. The man refused to provide a witness statement about that offence.

The Incident

On July 19, at approximately 9:45 a.m., officers from the RCMP Eastern Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) went to the residence of the affected person’s uncle. At that location, RCMP observed a black Dodge Avenger behind the residence, covered by a tarp. The affected person’s uncle confirmed that both the affected person and his girlfriend, the civilian witness, were inside the residence. The uncle granted
police permission to enter his residence. At this time, the affected person yelled to the officers that he was armed and wanted them to enter the house for a confrontation.

Due to the serious nature of the situation, officers did not enter the residence. Instead, CRU and general duty RCMP officers established a perimeter around the residence. ERT was requested. Officers applied for a warrant to enter the residence, and it was granted at 12:03 p.m.

The residence was in a rural forested area. The residence had two decks, one in the front and one on the back right corner. Both decks had furniture and other large items on them. The yard around the residence contained numerous vehicles in various states of operability, and other large items. A lengthy driveway led to the residence, with a loop in the driveway near the front of the residence. Outside of the yard and driveway, there was forest, consisting of thick trees and bushes. Other residences were present in the area, separated from the residence by the forest.

After the initial contact with police, all occupants of the residence other than the affected person and the civilian witness left. While officers initially thought the civilian witness could be a hostage, she was not.

Throughout the incident, the civilian witness was observed moving freely, including outside of the residence. Early in the day, the affected person told the civilian witness that he did not want to go to jail.

After containment of the residence was established, general duty RCMP officers continued to speak to the affected person, and advised him that he was under arrest. The affected person offered to come out at one point, but then said he was going to get into a shootout. The affected person also told the officers that he was using methamphetamine in the residence.

The RCMP Edmonton Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) was also called out to negotiate with the affected person. Negotiations by CNT continued throughout the incident, over approximately 8.5 hours.

Throughout this time, CNT officers repeatedly told the affected person that they did not want to hurt anyone, and told him to exit the residence with nothing in his hands. They repeatedly outlined a plan for his safe surrender. The affected person asked a CNT officer for methamphetamine. He also repeatedly asked to speak to his mother, and was told he could speak to her once he had surrendered.

At 12:33 p.m., general duty officers placed a phone in a bag on the outside of the residence in order to speak with the affected person. A few minutes later, the affected person had a conversation with a CNT officer. He advised that he would surrender but wanted to speak with his mother first. The CNT officer said that he could not facilitate that call for the safety of all involved. The affected person became angry
and threw the phone out of the window.

At one point, the affected person indicated that he would come out and be arrested in exchange for a cigarette and a visit with his mother. However, a short time later, he told officers to come into the residence again, and then said he wanted to shoot it out with police.

Due to equipment difficulty, ERT did not arrive until approximately 3:00 p.m., when they assumed responsibility for containment of the residence. From this point on, officers from ERT and other units were in various positions around the residence. ERT brought with them methods of video surveillance, which recorded many of the events at the residence. A drone captured video from the air, and an RCMP robot
captured video from its location. Audio recording was limited to police communications. Officers attempted to use a portable public address system near the residence to assist with communication with the affected person but it did not function, so CNT officers communicated with the affected person primarily through yelling. The main post that officers communicated with the affected person was
approximately 30 to 50 metres from the residence. Once this post was set up, a CNT officer told the affected person that he was under arrest and that police were not leaving.

At 4:11 p.m., the RCMP robot dropped a second phone at the residence. The civilian witness picked up the phone and brought it inside. The affected person was seen holding the phone in his hand a short time later. A CNT officer gave him a phone number to call to speak to negotiators. He did not call, and instead threw the phone back outside.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., the affected person was outside on the back deck. He told police to come inside the residence. He re-entered the residence and, a short time later, said he was “ready to die.”

Shortly after that, he said he was “ready to shoot.”

At 5:43 p.m., the affected person picked up one of the phones he had thrown out of the window and brought it into the residence. He did not answer when CNT officers then called him multiple times.

At 6:12 p.m., the affected person came out on the back deck again. He told a CNT officer to come toward him alone, and said he would put his gun down. He told officers he was going to drive out of there. A short time later, the affected person said he would surrender after he talked to his mother. He was told that he could speak to her once he was in custody.

At 6:21 p.m., the RCMP robot left another phone for the affected person outside of the residence. The affected person came outside on the back deck, and said he was going to get his gun and drive out of there. The civilian witness picked up the phone. A short time later, the affected person threw the phone away from the residence. The affected person indicated that he was going to get his gun and take out a
cop.

Due to the threats to officers, the ERT incident commander determined that the affected person presented a lethal threat to officers on scene. The incident commander set out conditions he termed as the “line in the sand,” which set out the conditions under which officers were authorized to use force. If the affected person threatened an officer with a firearm or if he exited the back deck with a firearm in his
hand, the ERT incident commander authorized use of force.

At 7:00 p.m., the affected person pointed an object that appeared to be an imitation firearm out of the window. Officers in the area believed that the affected person had spotted them, and they shifted their location. Shortly after, the affected person’s mother attempted to reach the residence. She yelled that he should give himself up, but officers prevented her from reaching the residence.

The RCMP robot was then loaded with a gas canister. As part of a plan to force the affected person out of the residence and arrest him, the RCMP robot would deploy the gas canister into the residence.

At 7:31 p.m., the affected person and the civilian witness were again outside on the rear deck. The affected person talked to a CNT officer while on the deck. He had a sawed-off firearm in his hand initially, and the CNT officer was trying to convince him to put it down. He put it down, and then picked it up a short time later. The CNT officer asked him to put it down, take out the magazine, cycle the action to make the gun safe, and then throw it off the balcony. The CNT officer then outlined a plan for the affected person and the civilian witness to surrender safely. The affected person removed the magazine and cycled the action.

He told officers that he was sick of this lifestyle, and asked officers to shoot him.

The RCMP tactical armoured vehicle (TAV) arrived and, at 8:38 p.m., approached the front of the residence with various officers including a CNT officer inside. This event was recorded on video. Over the loud hailer, the CNT officer repeatedly asked the affected person to surrender peacefully. The driver of the TAV noticed that the affected person appeared to be scanning the bushes, which he interpreted as looking for
officers. The affected person came to an open front window, and pointed a rifle out of the window at the TAV. The TAV and the RCMP robot backed off from the residence in order to de-escalate the situation.

At this time, there were RCMP officers in various positions in front of the residence. The TAV was only a few car lengths away from the front window. Five police vehicles were parked in the driveway in front of the residence. These were the vehicles the general duty officers had arrived in, and the vehicles those officers used as cover during the beginning of the confrontation. By the evening, ERT officers had moved
the general duty officers back to the outer perimeter, so these vehicles were unoccupied by the time the TAV was approaching the residence.

General duty officers were on the road near the end of the residence driveway, and approximately 250 metres away from the residence. The subject officers were in the bushes along the side of the driveway, approximately 100 metres away from the residence. Both subject officers were dressed in RCMP-issued green camouflage with additional elements designed to conceal their location.

At 8:58 p.m. and as recorded on video, the affected person was at the same open front window. He pointed a rifle out of the window and, according to multiple witnesses, fired a single shot. The civilian witness, who was in the room with the affected person, thought he shot at an officer, at the road, or at a police vehicle. The driver of the TAV stated that the affected person shot at the subject officers’ positions.

The CNT officer in the TAV stated that the affected person aimed down the driveway, and then he heard three shots. The CNT officer at the post beside the residence heard a shot from the residence. Subject officer #1 said the affected person pointed the firearm down the driveway toward them and fired. Subject officer #2 said he waved it at the subject officers’ position three times and, on the third, fired one shot in
their direction.

In response, both subject officers immediately fired a single shot. One shot hit the affected person’s head, and one grazed his scalp. The affected person fell into the residence, dropping the rifle outside. The civilian witness then yelled that the affected person was dead. She exited the residence and was detained by police.

ERT officers entered the residence at 9:08 p.m. and found the affected person on the floor. Emergency medical services (EMS), which had been staged nearby, entered and assessed the affected person. He was pronounced dead by EMS at 9:17 p.m.

ASIRT’s Conclusion

In summary, the use of force by the subject officers was for the preservation of their lives or the lives of other officers, and was proportionate, necessary, and reasonable. While the consequences were tragic, the actions of the affected person in those final moments left the subject officers with no other reasonable choice that preserved their lives. The defence provided to the subject officers under s. 25 is very likely to succeed.

Over close to 11 hours, police officers around the residence presented the affected person with many opportunities for a peaceful surrender. He rejected these opportunities and instead threatened to shoot the officers. The officers continued to try to speak with the affected person and not escalate the situation.

While this was happening, the affected person pointed a firearm in the direction of the subject officers and fired a single shot. The subject officers, fearing for their lives, each responded with a single shot. One of these shots killed the affected person. Their uses of force in response to the affected person firing in their direction were proportionate, necessary, and reasonable, and the defences provided by s. 25 of the Criminal Code therefore apply to the subject officers.

Further, they were reasonably acting in self-defence and s. 34 of the Criminal Code also applies. For these reasons, there are no reasonable grounds to believe either of the subject officers committed a criminal offence.

The fact that the subject officers’ actions are not criminal does not change the tragedy of the death of the affected person for his family and friends. Regardless of the allocation of blame, this incident will have long-lasting effects on the affected person’s family and friends, and the residents of Frog Lake First Nation.

To read the full report click here.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is an award winning journalist and is from Whitbourne Newfoundland. Green graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, River Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner and can fillet a Codfish.