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No charges recommended in RCMP officer-involved shooting at O’Chiese First Nation

ASIRT investigation concluded reasonable grounds that a firearms offence had occurred
An Alberta Serious Incident Response Team investigation into an RCMP officer-involved shooting at O’Chiese First Nation in 2018 concluded a firearms have offence may have been involved. Crown prosecutors recommended no charges be laid. (Advocate file photo)

Crown prosecutors recommended no charges be laid in a 2018 RCMP officer-involved shooting despite an independent investigation that concluded a firearms offence may have been committed.

The investigation by Alberta Serious Incident Response Team into the March 16, 2018 confrontation concluded “there were reasonable grounds to believe a firearms offence may have been committed” when an officer fired seven rounds from his gun at a truck with three people inside.

The results of the investigation were passed on to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, which recommended no charges be laid against the officer, says the ASIRT investigation report released on Thursday.

ASIRT notes that it is bound by different standards than Crown prosecutors. ASIRT applies the Criminal Code to determine whether or not reasonable grounds exist to believe that an offence has been committed.

Prosecutors apply a standard of whether there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction and whether it is in the public interest to proceed with a prosecution.

“Depending on the specifics of an individual investigation the application of these two different standards can result in different conclusions,” says ASIRT.

No one was injured in the incident that happened about 6:50 p.m. after Rocky Mountain House RCMP officers tried to arrest three suspects who had fled police in a stolen truck.

While trying to avoid a spike belt, the truck ended up in a snow-filled ditch. As officers approached, the driver tried to free the truck, spinning its wheels and rocking it back and forth with the officers in the ditch nearby.

“(The subject officer) fired his service pistol seven times at or into the truck,” says the report.

The driver was eventually able to get his truck back on the road and took off but soon hit a spike belt. He continued to drive the truck with flattened tires until it spun out. The driver and two passengers fled into the nearby bush. The driver was arrested later.

He told investigators he heard shots from behind and ducked and believed he was lucky he was not hit in the head.

One of the officers who had been at the truck when it was in the ditch said he tried unsuccessfully to smash the windows with his baton. The officer told investigators he was in deep snow and as the truck got traction feared he was about to be run over.

He thought the officer, who fired the shots and was behind the truck, had already been run over by the truck as it rocked back and forth.

He told investigators he heard shots and saw the other officer holding his gun and saying, “They’re shooting.”

When the truck got back on the road the officer who had been in the front got back in his vehicle and joined the chase along with four other police vehicles. The pursuit lasted for 22 kms before the truck spun out.

The audio from an in-car video from a police vehicle recorded the sound of seven shots being fired over a period of one minute and 19 seconds.

“As is his constitutional right” the officer involved chose not to provide a statement to ASIRT, says the report.

“Given the (subject officer) shooting at the truck with the occupants in it over an extended period of time, ASIRT determined that there were reasonable grounds to believe a firearms offence may have been committed,” says the report. “An opinion was sought by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) on whether charges should be pursued.

“The ACPS reviewed the ASIRT investigation and recommended no charges against the (subject officer).”

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