'I'm not going to die here tonight,' survivor of fatal RCMP shooting recalls thinking
There was anguished testimony at the murder trial of Curt Alfred Dagenais Friday from the only RCMP officer to survive a shooting near Spiritwood, Sask., in 2006.
Const. Michelle Knopp wept in the Saskatoon Queen's Bench courtroom as she described events on the night constables Robin Cameron and Marc Bourdages were fatally wounded.
Dagenais, 44, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the officers, as well as attempted murder for the wounding of Knopp.
A Crown prosecutor has told the jury that on July 7, 2006, Knopp followed Cameron and Bourdages, her two colleagues from the Spiritwood RCMP detachment, in a high-speed pursuit of Dagenais, who had earlier been accused of assaulting his sister.
The chase began in Spiritwood, about 180 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, and headed east out of town over a highway and rural roads. Knopp said she could see Dagenais's truck and the lead RCMP vehicle going up and down hills throughout the chase.
At one point, she crested a hill and could see that Bourdages's truck had smashed into the side of Dagenais's pickup.
She assumed Dagenais was under arrest, but as she got closer to the other two vehicles, she heard a loud bang, her face went hot and her ear began to bleed, she said.
She also saw a big hole in the window and could see Dagenais staring at her, she said.
"The look in his eyes ... I will never forget that look," she said. "I could see Curt had a gun ... he shot another shot closer to the passenger side."
Emotional testimony from officer
As Knopp's story progressed, she cried openly, as did members of the jury and people in the gallery.
Knopp told the jury she vowed to herself she would survive that night.
"I'm not going to die here tonight," she recalled thinking. "I'm a single parent, and my boys needed me."
Knopp fired twice and thought she saw Dagenais drop, she said.
That's when she went to look for Cameron and Bourdages. She found Cameron in the truck, not moving, with blood everywhere, she said.
"Robin, are you all right?" Knopp recalled asking. There was no response. Cameron, still wearing her seatbelt, just sat there, she said.
She went to look for Bourdages and found him on the ground, she said.
"His eyes were wide open," she said. "He was a weird colour. His hand was trying to go to his cell phone. I knew he was alive."
Knopp said she tried to move Bourdages back to safety, but he was too heavy.
"I didn't want to leave him, I didn't want to leave my partners there," she said.
Alone, Knopp felt she had no option but to retreat and wait for reinforcements, she said.
Knopp expressed her anguish over leaving, crying out: "No one found them for two hours."
She phoned her parents on her cell phone and told them she didn't want to be a police officer any more, she said.
Court heard earlier this week that Cameron and Bourdages were taken to hospital and died of their injuries several days later. Knopp was shot in the ear, arm and torso, the Crown said.
Cameron had been looking forward to Saskatoon transfer
A short time before the chase began, there had been a celebratory mood at the detachment, because Cameron had just found out a transfer to Saskatoon had been approved, Knopp said.
Dagenais had shown up at the office and said he wanted the RCMP's help in removing his sister and mother from his house in town, she said.
When the officers refused, Dagenais pointed a finger and said: "I'm not done with you guys," Knopp said.
Asked if that was a threat, Dagenais said, "Take it however you want," Knopp said.
The trial before Justice Gerald Allbright and a jury of six men and six women in Saskatoon Queen's Bench Court began Monday and is expected to last three weeks.