Calli Vanderaa, teen shot with stolen RCMP gun, sues police

The Winnipeg teenager who was shot and seriously wounded with a stolen RCMP gun last fall is suing the RCMP.
Calli Vanderaa, who was shot with a gun stolen from an off-duty RCMP officer's vehicle last fall, and her father, Corey, are suing RCMP, the officer whose gun it was, and the Attorney General of Canada in a lawsuit filed Friday. Calli, shown her in hospital, is now back home. (Submitted by Corey Vanderaa)

The Winnipeg teenager who was shot and seriously wounded with a stolen RCMP gun last fall is suing the RCMP.

Calli Vanderaa and her father, Corey, have also named the sergeant whose gun it was and the Attorney General of Canada in the civil suit filed Friday. 

Their lawyer, Robert Tapper, says the girl, who was 16 at the time, has been through a lot. 

"This is a little girl, who had a bullet tear through her lung, her spleen, her colon, [and it] took two ribs on the way through. I mean, she was massively beat up. She ended up with an intractable infection that took two or three months to resolve. She was in the hospital for a lengthy period of time. She has a  series of physiological issues that she will have to deal with for many years to come, if not the rest of her life. On top of that there's the intense psychological emotional damage that this has done. She's having dramatic episodes of PTSD, night screams, night terrors. It's a terrible thing."

The lawsuit aims to compensate Calli for what she has suffered since the shooting. 

"What is she looking for? She's looking for compensation. It's really as simple as that. The claim also references aggravated and punitive damages because it's so very obvious that one would think that a police officer looks to his or her gun as an appendage of their body. You don't leave those things in the car. You just don't.  It's so intensely wrong and so fundamentally wrong as to defy imagination," Tapper said. 

A statement of defense has not yet been filed. Tapper said there isn't much to defend. 

"I don't see how they are going to defend it. You can't have a firearm sitting in the back seat, visibly in the back seat of a car. Everybody including police officers are under a statutory duty to preserve the security of a firearm," he said.

"In this case, good grief, it wasn't secure. It was sitting in the back seat of a car on a residential street. It's mind numbing."

The lawsuit describes the gun used in the shooting as a "semi-automatic pistol [that] is an extremely dangerous weapon."

The gun allegedly wasn't the only weapon left in the cruiser. The lawsuit claims the officer "left his police belt, replete with firearm, Taser and baton, visible on the back seat of the car."

The lawsuit states the officer failed to comply with the law regarding storing firearms, and "did so willfully, recklessly, and dangerously, as well as negligently, and would have to have known that anyone who might steal said firearm could use it in a malicious way with harm to a member of the public, which said harm befell the plaintiff Calli." 

Tapper said civil lawsuits can take a couple of years to resolve, but added "Whether this case will take that long, [is] hard to know." He said in the meantime, Calli is doing better, but still has a long way to go. 

"The first time I saw Calli she was in the hospital. It was shocking to see this poor kid in the condition she was. When I next saw her she was in my office and she looked great. I mean she was intact but you peel that off and you realized, no, she's still having all kinds of emotional, psychological issues and so she's got a long distance to go, I suspect, to recover from this," he said. "If she ever does."

The lawsuit seeks damages for Calli's injuries and time recovering, as well lost wages her father incurred when he was forced to leave work to take care of her after the shooting.

A 22-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder in the shooting. He and a 25-year-old man face theft and numerous firearms-related charges.

Police have said they do not believe Vanderaa was the intended target.