Two men who attacked a central Alberta RCMP officer and stole her vehicle on an isolated Red Deer County road early on a December morning in 2019 were sentenced to five years in prison on Monday.
Johnathan Andrews and Chasetin Morin previously pleaded guilty to attempting to disarm a police officer and robbery for their role in the incident around 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2019.
Red Deer Court of King’s Bench Justice Gillian Marriott sentenced Andrews and Morin to four years each for the robbery and another year to be served consecutively for attempting to take Const. Lottie Bell’s gun after they jumped her from behind and wrestled her to the ground.
Bell was on patrol when she stopped to help three men whose vehicle was stuck in the ditch on Range Road 10 near the Burnt Lake Trail, about 10 km west of Red Deer. A licence plate check found it did not match the vehicle and she took the keys out of the ignition and was walking back to her vehicle when she was attacked.
She heard someone yelling “get her gun” repeatedly as she struggled against Andrews and Morin, who were on top of the five-foot-two, 130-pound officer. They eventually left her and got into her vehicle and drove off. She fired three shots, hitting Levi Bennink in the leg. Morin and Andrews were not injured.
Much of the attack was captured on her police vehicle’s video recording system.
Bennink pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and robbery in November 2021 and was sentenced to four years in prison.
They sped off but came to a dead end and were arrested soon after by other RCMP officers.
Marriott was alone and vulnerable when the men attacked.
“In her words, she thought she was going to die,” said the judge.
“Bell went from being a police officer doing her duty to being a victim.”
Marriott said both Andrews and Morin had lengthy criminal records, including two previous convictions for assaulting police for Morin, and had struggled with substance abuse.
Both men apologized in court for their actions that morning.
Morin’s lawyer, Maurice Collard, had asked for a two-year sentence for his client. Andrews’ lawyer, Lonnie Allen, asked for roughly the same sentence but satisfied by time served in custody, in treatment programs and under strict release conditions.
Lawyers for both men sought a reduction in their sentences on the grounds that by shooting at the fleeing men Bell had used unreasonable force.
Marriott disagreed, saying Bell acted appropriately. “I find as a fact that Const. Bell did not use excessive force in these circumstances.”
Andrews was given credit for 529 days in custody, treatment and house arrest. Morin was given credit for 18 days.
National Police Federation director Kevin Halwa was in court to support Bell and was satisfied with the sentence.
“While personally, I would obviously like the sentences to be a little higher but they are appropriate in the situation and in the case law,” said Halwa, whose organization represents 20,000 RCMP officers across Canada.
“I’m happy the court recognized the severity of this incident and sentenced appropriately. The circumstances here point out that our members work in dangerous and dynamic situations and they do so to protect the public.
“They are serving the community and doing the best that they can and to be viciously attacked for no reason is tremendously wrong.”