Calgary

RCMP officer who killed armed murder suspect during arrest on Stoney Nakoda cleared of wrongdoing

The RCMP officer who fatally shot an armed murder suspect who had fired at police during an attempted arrest has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).

Suspect shot at police who were trying to arrest him and 'narrowly missed' the officers, police watchdog finds

Ralph (Jim) Stephens, 28, died after being shot by RCMP in January 2017. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

The RCMP officer who fatally shot an armed murder suspect who had fired at police during an attempted arrest has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).

"The officer was lawfully placed and acting in the lawful execution of his duty," reads a release sent out by the investigative body on Thursday. "In the circumstances, the force used was both reasonable and authorized under the Criminal Code."

Police were attempting to execute a search warrant to arrest three men on charges of first-degree murder at a home on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation in January 2017.

Officers were attempting arrest Deangelo Powderface, 22, and brothers John and Ralph (Jim) Stephens, the day after the body of Lorenzo Bearspaw, 27, was discovered on the reserve.

The shotgun that ASIRT says was fired by the man killed by RCMP in January 2017. (ASIRT)

Once there, they arrested John Stephens without incident but, as RCMP entered the basement of the family's home, Jim Stephens, 28, yelled at officers to get out and leave him alone before firing through the wall, "narrowly missing the officers," according to ASIRT.

Police returned to the main floor of the house, threw a tear gas canister into the basement and then evacuated the home.

Officers surrounded the home and heard another shot. Jim Stephens and a woman crawled out a basement window and Stephens was carrying a shotgun, aimed in the direction of police, according to the ASIRT release. 

One of the responding officers shot the suspect. Stephens died shortly after in hospital.

Toxicology tests showed Stephens was high on meth at the time of the incident. His shotgun had three unfired shells and the pump action was in the forward firing position at the time he was shot.

Powderface and Stephens are set to appear in court next week with plans to plead guilty to reduced charges of manslaughter.

Previously, police released information that Bearspaw was last seen getting into a vehicle with other men after leaving a New Year's Eve party. The car was later found abandoned in a ditch.

Bearspaw was reported missing by his sister on Jan. 3, 2017 and his body was discovered three days later on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation by a police dog handler.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.