Strathcona County RCMP had been conducting surveillance from unmarked police vehicles as part of an investigation into stolen vehicles. At approximately 2:55 p.m., they saw a GMC Yukon leaving an address associated with stolen vehicle activity, travelling westbound on Highway 16. Computer checks confirmed the Yukon had been reported stolen. The Yukon turned onto Broadmoor Boulevard in Sherwood Park, entered the Costco parking lot near the gas bar, and stopped. At approximately 3:08 p.m., two unmarked police vehicles activated their lights and siren. In response, the driver of the Yukon placed the vehicle into reverse and quickly accelerated over a grass boulevard and through some trees, before heading northbound onto Broadmoor Boulevard.
At 3:09 p.m., the officers notified RCMP dispatch that the vehicle had fled police and was northbound on Broadmoor Boulevard. At 3:10 p.m., they told dispatch they had lost visual contact with the Yukon as it crossed the Yellowhead Trail overpass. At 3:11 p.m., the RCMP officers received direction over the radio to terminate the pursuit, pull over and turn off their emergency equipment, which the evidence establishes they followed. At 3:18 p.m., RCMP received a 911 call reporting a single-vehicle rollover at the off-ramp of the Sherwood Park Freeway and 17 Street NW. The vehicle in question was the stolen GMC Yukon. Two males exited the rolled vehicle and fled on foot, abandoning a 16-year-old passenger who had been killed in the rollover.
ASIRT conducted a comprehensive investigation in accordance with current best practices. The investigation involved interviews with numerous civilian witnesses and all involved police officers. Additionally, ASIRT obtained extensive GPS data from the police vehicles and the complete communications recordings from the incident. All available video evidence was obtained and analyzed.
ASIRT’s investigation focused on the actions of police leading up to the fatal collision, and whether those actions could reasonably be considered a contributing cause of the passenger’s death.
Police officers are lawfully entitled to pursue fleeing suspects. That said, criminal flight from police creates an inherently dangerous situation for police, the occupants of the fleeing vehicle, and the general public. The decision to pursue a feeing vehicle must be made carefully, and with constant assessment and reassessment of the danger involved. Such considerations were taken into account in this case. Additionally, it is beyond dispute that RCMP members had terminated any attempt to pursue or follow the stolen Yukon well in advance of the single vehicle rollover that ultimately occurred.
Civilian witnesses who had witnessed the rollover were identified and interviewed. None of those witnesses indicated that RCMP vehicles were in pursuit of or in proximity to the Yukon at the time of the rollover. Several of the witnesses described remaining on-scene until police arrived, and indicated that it was several minutes before the first police vehicle arrived. Another civilian witness, who had not stopped at the scene, had recorded dash camera footage of the rollover which revealed two occupants fleeing on foot from the scene and confirmed the absence of any immediate police presence.
As previously stated, police are lawfully entitled to enforce the law and, in doing so, to pursue fleeing vehicles. The risks inherent in that action, however, are significant, and require careful consideration. In this particular case, police made the decision to terminate any pursuit for public safety reasons well in advance of the single vehicle collision. As such, it cannot reasonably be argued that the conduct of police, acting in the lawful execution of their duties, but mindful of public safety, caused or contributed to the death of the passenger in the stolen vehicle.
ASIRT’s completed investigation investigation does not provide reasonable grounds to believe that any RCMP member committed a Criminal Code offence during this incident. While the death the young passenger was both tragic and criminal, both the moral and legal responsibility for his death rests with driver of the stolen vehicle.
ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently, and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person. This mandate includes incidents involving discharge of a firearm that would likely have resulted in serious injury or death had the person been struck.
This release is distributed by the Government of Alberta on behalf of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.
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