Calgary

RCMP officers won't be charged in double shooting during rural Alberta car chase

Investigators say RCMP officers "acted reasonably" when they shot a man and a woman in a 2017 car chase in central Alberta.

Only 'good luck' prevented death as suspects used vehicles as weapons

ASIRT has decided not to charge two RCMP officers who shot two people in a dramatic multi-community chase in 2017. (CBC)

Investigators say RCMP officers "acted reasonably" when they shot a man and woman during a 2017 car chase in central Alberta.

Neither officer will be charged in the shootings, one of which left a man paralyzed. 

The dramatic series of events happened on Oct. 13, 2017.

One of the suspects drove a truck at an officer, "purposely trying to run him over," the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) said in a statement issued Friday. Later, the suspects used a stolen truck to ram a police vehicle.

Police had no choice but to respond forcefully with the shootings, investigators say, as in both instances officers feared an imminent risk of grievous bodily harm or death.

"Given the demonstrated conduct of both men, they needed to be stopped before they seriously injured or killed someone," ASIRT said. "The fact that they had not done so to that point was the result of good luck, nothing more."

The report from ASIRT details hours of a dramatic crime spree that that included a death threat, the injury of a civilian and the theft of cellphones from two women with children so that they couldn't call for help.

Police shot the 20-year-old male driver twice. One shot shattered the man's left forearm. The second went through his left shoulder, shattering the bone. It was lodged in his spine, causing permanent paralysis.

A bullet also grazed the back of a 20-year-old woman's head.

"The risk was not hypothetical. The threat was relatively immediate," ASIRT's report says. "The only means at their disposal in that moment was the use of lethal force."

Long chase in rural Alberta

Investigators pieced together the long chase through rural Alberta through interviews with witnesses and video from spectators and police.

The chase began around 9:14 a.m. when a man reported to RCMP that he had gotten into a dispute with the driver of a light-coloured Chevrolet truck, and then the driver threatened him with a large knife. 

The truck's licence plate matched that of a truck stolen in Didsbury earlier that day. 

The man, with a female passenger, then headed to Innisfail, where they picked up a second man, who'd just been released on bail for car theft allegations. Shortly after, the son of the man who owned the stolen truck called RCMP. He had followed the truck from Sundre to Innisfail.

The driver of the stolen truck rammed the son's car and tried to run him over when he got out of his vehicle. 

He was hit despite throwing himself out of the way. His leg was injured.

The woman waved a large knife at the son and threatened to kill him.

RCMP pulled alongside the stolen vehicle but couldn't get the truck to stop. They followed the truck to a rural road, then into Caroline and onto a field. 

The driver turned around and drove at the officers. The officers got out of their vehicle and pulled out their pistols but did not fire as the truck avoided them.

Later they spotted the truck north on Highway 22 west of Caroline. The truck avoided two spike belts, at one point, driving directly at an officer to avoid stopping.

Two police cars then chased the stolen truck at speeds reaching 170-180 km/h. 

The woman threw a child's car seat and other items out of the back seat window, police say.

Head grazed

They then avoided another spike belt set up across Township Road 394. The driver drove through the ditch, toward the officer, to avoid it.

He then swerved to chase the officer, who believed the driver was trying to run him over. The truck hit the police vehicle, coming within feet of the officer. Both officers fired their pistols.

"A bullet grazed the top of the back of the woman's head, causing a relatively minor laceration," ASIRT said.

The truck did end up driving over a spike belt, which slowed it down. An RCMP officer rammed the side of the truck later, after getting permission to do so. That forced the truck into a ditch. 

The two men climbed out of a window and fled. The woman stayed in the back seat.

Farmhouse break-in

The men went into a farmhouse after seeing a woman run inside. They kicked in the door and saw two women with children. The women didn't have keys to vehicles. The men took their cellphones so they couldn't call for help.

They then ran to another rural home and broke into the vehicles there. That's how they got the garage door opener, and thus the keys to a black Ford 250 truck, which they then stole.

An officer tried to pin them against a fence but the truck reversed, ramming the police vehicle. 

The chase and spike belt combo continued, and at one point, an officer had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by the truck's front grill.

The officers shot their pistols when the truck came within a foot of one of them, ASIRT said.

Even after the driver's legs were paralyzed, the passenger kept the truck going by reaching over the console and flooring the accelerator. 

The officers continued firing. The truck finally stopped in a grove of trees in a Highway 20 ditch.

ASIRT says both men later said they did not intend to hit anybody but investigators said anyone who saw their conduct "at minimum" would have assumed that had been their intent.