Pincher Creek standoff suspect granted bail after allegations questioned

The RCMP emergency response team was dispatched from Calgary to Pincher Creek last week. Originally it was reported that shots were fired at officers, but now that's being called into question in court.

Dewey Starzyk was charged with careless use of a firearm, breach of conditions following incident

The RCMP's emergency response team and a negotiator, as well as RCMP from surrounding communities, were called in to respond to a 'dangerous' emergency that began around 4:40 a.m. Wednesday. (CBC)

The man involved in the RCMP standoff in Pincher Creek, Alta., last week has been released on bail after his lawyer questioned the validity of the allegations against him. 

RCMP officers were dispatched from across southern Alberta, and the RCMP emergency response team was sent in from Calgary. An RCMP helicopter and armoured vehicle also assisted.

Schools were closed and access was cut off to parts of the town.

Originally it was reported that RCMP officers had responded after a caller heard shots fired. When two officers arrived, RCMP told media that shots were also fired at officers. 

The next day Dewey (Todd) Starzyk was charged with careless use of a firearm and a breach of his previously mandated conditions — originating from past criminal charges. 

'May have been the sound of the front door'

This week, Starzyk waived his right to a publication ban on his bail hearing.

Police responded to a house in Pincher Creek in the early hours of Feb. 8 after a report shots had been fired. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

"The facts that came out at the bail hearing was that the initial 911 call was made up. It didn't happen. The 911 call was to the effect that shots were fired. All witnesses state that no gun was ever fired," Sean Fagan, defence counsel for Starzyk, told CBC News. 

"With respect to the shots that were fired — or reportedly fired — from the residence towards police officers, evidence has been disclosed that it may have been the sound of the front door. Gave them a reasonable scare, they left and emergency response team arrived."

RCMP stand by actions taken

RCMP could not assign a price tag to what it costs to have the emergency response team dispatched from Calgary, but a spokesperson stood by the actions taken. Aside from the emergency response team, 12 other officers were on site for the standoff.

A heavy police presence was seen throughout Pincher Creek Feb. 8 and access to part of town were cut off. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

"Our officers are tasked with making decisions in a very short amount of time with the limited information they have. I don't think that our officers made any errors in this case," said Cpl. Curtis Peters.

Peters explained that because the nature of the call was related to a discharged firearm, coupled with the refusal of the suspect to leave the home, the emergency response team would have been sent in regardless of whether or not officers were fired at. 

The standoff lasted about seven hours. 

Starzyk known to police

Starzyk was known to police before the incident occurred. He has a lengthy criminal record that dates back to 1980 with crimes from across the province, including Calgary, Fort Macleod, Medicine Hat and Red Deer. 

In total, Starzyk has either paid fines for or served time in jail for 41 offences.

Regardless of his past, Starzyk plans to fight all current charges against him. 

"Mr. Starzyk does have a lengthy record, but it's almost exclusively impaired driving charges — very little to no record for violence," Fagan said. 

Meanwhile, a long list of new conditions have been placed on Starzyk, including a curfew. He is due back in court for a hearing on March 7 in Pincher Creek. 

Dewey (Todd) Starzyk is expected back in court on March 7. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)


Sarah Lawrynuik is a freelance journalist who reports on climate change and conflict and is currently based in London, UK. She's covered news stories across Canada and from a dozen countries around the world, including Ukraine, Hungary, France and Iraq. She has also worked for CBC News in Halifax, Winnipeg and Calgary.