A three-week trial for two Whitecourt RCMP officers charged in the 2018 shooting death of a man linked to Valhalla Centre got underway Monday. Constable Jessica Brown and Corporal Randy Stegner are charged with manslaughter with a firearm, aggravated assault, and discharging a firearm with intent to cause bodily harm.
The two were initially charged with criminal negligence causing death in June 2020 after an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, but that was upgraded that September after the prosecution of the case was transferred to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. Both officers were suspended with pay after their initial charges were laid.
According to the ASIRT report, on July 2, 2018, 31-year-old Clayton Crawford was in a house in Valhalla Centre when an unidentified attacker opened fire on the home. Another person was injured, while Crawford was able to flee the scene in a vehicle described as “distinctive”.
The next day, an off-duty RCMP officer reportedly observed what he believed to be the vehicle parked at a rest stop west of Whitecourt. They provided the information to Whitecourt RCMP, who were looking to interview Crawford about the incident.
Shortly after 12:15 p.m., officers found the vehicle parked with what appeared to be one person asleep in the reclined driver’s seat. ASIRT says the officers approached the vehicle and a confrontation occurred, during which the vehicle was put into motion.
It’s reported one officer fired their service pistol at the vehicle, while the second fired a carbine rifle. The vehicle left the rest stop, crossed the highway, and entered a ditch a short distance away. Crawford was declared dead at the scene, after sustaining several gunshot wounds.
According to The Canadian Press, on the first day of the trial in Edmonton lawyers for the accused claimed the officers acted in self-defence. They say there was a struggled with Crawford and he tried to drive away recklessly.