An RCMP officer testified she feared for her life when she was jumped by three men after she stopped to help them on an isolated rural road in Red Deer County in December 2019.
Const. Lottie Bell had pulled over to assist the men, whose vehicle was stuck in the snow, when she was violently thrown to the ground by Johnathan Andrews. He and Chasetin Morin then got on top of her and tried to pry her gun out of its holster in the 5:30 a.m. attack on Dec. 13, 2019.
“I recall hearing, ‘Get her gun. Get the gun,’” she testified in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday.
Bell said she managed to hit the emergency button on her radio before a third man, Levi Bennink, ripped the radio cord out. He also pulled a microphone linked to her cruiser’s video system off her coat and threw it away.
Morin warned her several times to stop struggling as he wrestled with her. “He said, ‘I’m sorry,’ but told me if I fought back he would ‘f**k me up.’
Unable to get her gun, all three ran off and stole her police vehicle, which was parked nearby on Range Road 10 near the Burnt Lake Trail about 10 km west of Red Deer.
Bell fired at driver Morin as he drove past. Morin was not hit but Bennink was wounded in the calf. Andrews was hit in the foot, but the bullet did not penetrate his skin. A round hit the front windshield of her vehicle as it sped off.
The whole sequence was captured on video by a camera mounted on the dashboard of Bell’s vehicle. The 17-minute video was shown in court before Justice Gillian Marriott.
The police vehicle ran off the road soon after and the three men were tracked down by a police dog and arrested nearby.
Crown prosecutor Davin Mitchell asked Bell, who is five-foot-two and weighed about 130 pounds at the time, what was going through her mind as she struggled with the men.
“I believed I was going to die because I could not get them to stop,” she said.
Andrews and Morin pleaded guilty to attempting to disarm a police officer and robbery in court on Monday.
Bennink pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and robbery last month and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Bell was questioned closely about when she fired at the vehicle Monday afternoon by lawyers representing Andrews and Morin.
The officer said that the vehicle had just passed her when she fired shots aiming at the driver.
Maurice Collard, who is representing Morin, told the judge that he intends to argue that his client’s charter rights were breached, alleging excessive use of force by Bell. If the judge agrees, he will ask that his client’s sentence be reduced. Lonnie Allen is expected to make a similar case on behalf of Andrews.
The lawyers will make their arguments on Tuesday afternoon.