On Sept. 30, 2018, at approximately 9:49 p.m., two EPS officers were partnered and patrolling in a marked police vehicle as part of the EPS Downtown Division Traffic Section. While travelling southbound on 84 Street from 106 Avenue, the officers conducted routine checks of the licence plates on nearby vehicles, including a Dodge Ram truck driving slightly ahead of them. Checks revealed that the licence plate on the truck matched, and that the truck had not been reported stolen. They continued to follow this truck when it proceeded onto a service road to avoid a red light. On the service road, the truck accelerated and passed a slower vehicle that had to move over to let it pass. The truck then rolled through a stop sign at 90 Street and Jasper Avenue.
Based on the driving pattern, the officers chose to attempt a traffic stop and activated their emergency lights. The truck accelerated rapidly away from them. The traffic at this time was light and there were no pedestrians. The truck continued to accelerate and began to pull away from police. The truck then drove through a red light at the intersection of 92 Street and Jasper Avenue.
Since the officers considered this to be high-risk behaviour, as they approached the red light, they decided to terminate the pursuit. The officer driving the police vehicle slowed the vehicle while the other officer radioed in that they had attempted to stop a vehicle that was involved in a criminal flight. As they did so, they saw the tail lights of the Dodge disappear on Jasper Avenue, followed by a sudden power outage and plume of dust in the distance.
After the truck went through the red light at 92 Street and Jasper Avenue, it continued to drive at a high rate of speed and appeared either to lose control or fail to negotiate a left turn onto Alex Taylor Road. As a result, the truck hit a utility pole at that intersection, causing extensive structural damage to the truck, including shearing off the driver’s side of the cab from the rest of the vehicle.
The officers approached the collision scene and were soon joined by Emergency Medical Services and the fire department. The male driver was deceased at the scene. The lone female passenger was extricated from the truck and suffered a broken arm. She kept repeating, “I told him to stop, I told him to stop.” The truck was later determined to have been stolen.
At the collision scene, the road was dry and clear, with a temperature of approximately 0 C. The truck was resting in the yard of Alex Taylor School, on the corner of Alex Taylor Drive and Jasper Avenue. The entire front driver’s side of the truck had been sheared off in the collision and was located metres away from the rest of the vehicle.
Examination of the stolen truck’s event data recorder, similar to a black box on aircraft, showed that the truck had been travelling at 152 km/h when it went through the red light at 92 Street. The pressure applied to the accelerator pedal was 100 per cent. Accordingly, the maximum speed of the truck was approximately 160 km/h just prior to the collision, and the truck collided with the pole at approximately 104 km/h. At the time of collision, the driver was not wearing a seat belt.
The entirety of the evidence confirmed that the entire encounter, from the point that the truck was first observed to the collision, took approximately two minutes. The majority of this time, however, consisted of the officers’ initial observation of the vehicle and the time spent following it onto the service road. In fact, the police vehicle’s progress was slowed somewhat by the same vehicle that the truck had passed on the service road. The police vehicle was equipped with GPS, which provided both the location data and speed of the vehicle. The police vehicle reached a maximum speed of 109 km/h while travelling on Jasper Avenue but, at the time of the collision, it had slowed considerably, consistent with the actions described by the officers. The independent GPS data revealed unequivocally that there had been a marked change in the driving of the police vehicle consistent with slowing down and terminating the pursuit in the seconds before the collision.
The passenger in the motor vehicle, who was 21 years old at the time of the event, advised that she got into the truck with a friend she had known for some time, but did not know his last name. She later described him as her best friend. She advised that she had been with him earlier at the Coliseum LRT and they had picked up the truck on 75 Street and that her friend had a key for the vehicle. She advised she did not know the vehicle was stolen. She indicated that her friend was very short and drove by standing on the pedals and holding onto the steering wheel. When he started to drive very fast, she asked what he was doing and told him to stop. She stated that he replied that police were following him so he couldn’t stop. She indicated she saw police behind them. She recalled the driver attempted to make a turn and the next thing she mentioned was noticing her arm hurt and part of the truck and the driver were both “gone.” At hospital, she found out her arm was broken. She was obviously distraught and devastated regarding the death of the driver.
It was later determined that the vehicle had been stolen from a residence in the area of 75 Street, within walking distance from the Coliseum LRT. The truck key had been stolen from a second vehicle parked with the truck. The owner noted his vehicle missing and reported the vehicle stolen at approximately 11:19 p.m. (approximately 1.5 hours after the single-vehicle collision with the stolen vehicle).
This investigation examined the actions of police leading up to the fatal collision in order to determine whether police conduct caused or contributed to the death and injury that ultimately resulted and, if so, whether that conduct was lawful. While police officers are lawfully entitled to pursue fleeing suspects, criminal flights are inherently a dangerous situation for all involved – police, the fleeing suspect, and other civilians. Accordingly, the decision to pursue a fleeing vehicle must be made carefully, and with constant assessment and reassessment of the danger involved.
As mentioned earlier, the period of time from when the truck was first observed to the collision was approximately two minutes. For the majority of this time, both vehicles were travelling at a relatively normal speed. The actual attempted traffic stop and “pursuit” of the fleeing truck took place over approximately 500 metres and was over in a matter of seconds. Shortly before the collision, GPS and video evidence available from traffic lights leading up to the intersection demonstrated that the truck was approximately 200 metres ahead of the police vehicle. The involved officers were involved in a lawful traffic stop and, as such, were acting in the lawful execution of their duties.
Furthermore, the officers assessed the traffic conditions initially and reassessed almost immediately when the driver’s driving pattern became increasingly dangerous. Having been alive to the increasing public safety risk, the evidence, including the statements of the officers and the immutable GPS data from the police vehicle, establishes that the subject officers were slowing their vehicle considerably and had decided to terminate any pursuit, a decision made in split seconds.
What is very clear is that the 27-year-old man was operating the vehicle at an exceptionally high rate of speed and either attempted and failed to make the turn onto Alex Taylor Drive or simply lost control given the high speeds. Regardless, even though it was likely the result of an impulsive and not well-considered decision, the man’s operation of the motor vehicle had escalated to being extremely dangerous, and was the sole cause of the single motor vehicle collision.
It is the opinion of Executive Director Susan D. Hughson, QC, that the investigation does not provide reasonable grounds, nor reasonable suspicion, to believe that involved officers committed any Criminal Code offences. While the death of the man and the injury of the young woman in the passenger seat was both tragic and criminal, responsibility for this single motor vehicle collision rests with the man operating the stolen motor 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, as well as serious or
sensitive allegations of police misconduct.
This release is distributed by the Government of Alberta on behalf of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.