Manitoba

'He didn't deserve to die': Mother of man killed by RCMP officer finds closure, calls for cameras

The mother of a Thompson man killed by an RCMP officer in 2015 says her family has found some closure after the officer charged in her son's death was found not guilty of manslaughter on Monday.

Const. Abram Letkeman found not guilty of manslaughter in 2015 police shooting of Steven Campbell, 39

Shirley Huber, top left, says her son Steven Campbell, far right, was a loving father to his two daughters. (Submitted by Shirley Huber)

The mother of a Thompson man killed by an RCMP officer in 2015 says her family has found some closure after the officer charged in her son's death was found not guilty of manslaughter on Monday.

"My son was a kind and loving man," said Shirley Huber, mother of Steven Campbell, 39.

"I just want people to know that he didn't deserve to die because he made a mistake."

On Monday, a Manitoba judge found RCMP Const. Abram Letkeman not guilty of manslaughter in Campbell's death. But Justice Chris Martin found Letkeman guilty of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in connection with collisions during the police chase that led to the shooting.

Letkeman pleaded not guilty before his two-week trial in June. During the trial, court heard the shooting happened on an ATV trail after a chase that started when the officer tried to pull Campbell over for impaired driving. Court heard Campbell had a blood alcohol level nearly 2½ times the legal limit when he died.  

"It'll help with some closure," Huber said of the decision. "I've been dealing with this since … it happened in November of 2015."

Court heard Letkeman was the only officer at the scene when he crashed into Campbell's Jeep, exited his cruiser and ran in front of the Jeep. The officer testified Campbell accelerated toward him, and said he shot because he believed his life was in danger, which the judge accepted.

"The result was a tragic but proportionate response to a real and immediate threat to the officer's life," Martin wrote in his decision.

Huber said she wants to see video recording equipment added to police gear to provide additional evidence about police encounters.

"There needs to be some changes made, I think, with the Thompson RCMP. [Const. Letkeman] was by himself, and there was no dash cam and no body cams," she said.

"I think those things have to be put in place, because there has to be someone else besides the lone officer that does this by himself."

'I don't want him to ever be able to use a gun again'

During the trial, court heard that Letkeman hit Campbell's Jeep twice with his cruiser during the roughly four minute chase. One of the collisions injured Lori Flett, a passenger in the Jeep and the mother of the younger of Campbell's two daughters.

Huber spoke to CBC News on the phone from her home in Alberta, because it was too difficult to be in the same room as Letkeman. She said she's disappointed the judge didn't find the officer guilty of manslaughter, but happy to see a conviction for criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Steven Campbell was shot and killed by a police officer after a traffic stop in November 2015. He was the father of two girls, age two and 11 at the time of the shooting. (Submitted by Shannon Heck)

Her family wants to see Letkeman removed from his role with the RCMP.

"I don't need to see him go to prison for the rest of his life. I don't feel that way. But … maybe he'll sit in the cell, even for a month, by himself and maybe think about, 'I didn't make the best choices that night.' And you know, that's something that'll give me a little bit of peace of mind," Huber said. "I don't want him to ever be able to use a gun again."

Robert Cyrenne, a spokesperson for the RCMP, said Letkeman has been suspended with pay since charges were laid in March 2017.

"Following today's verdict, a review of his duty status has been initiated," he wrote in an email.

December sentencing

Huber said she wants the public to know her son was a good man.

"There's a saying that 'he would have given you the shirt off his back,' and that was my son," she said.

Letkeman was represented by defence lawyer Joshua Weinstein. The Crown prosecutor on the case was Christian Vanderhooft.

His sentencing is set for Dec. 16 in Thompson. Campbell's family and the passengers in the Jeep the night he died will have the opportunity to read victim impact statements to the court.