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RCMP officers charged in fatal shooting near Whitecourt

A string of events that started in Valhalla Centre and ended with an officer-involved shooting has led to charges against two members of the Whitecourt RCMP. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team was called in to investigate, and the mounties are now facing charges of criminal negligence causing death in relation to the death of a man.

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 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.

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One officer fired a 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. ASIRT executive director Susan D. Hughson determined that the evidence showed there are reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence had been committed, taking into account the opinion of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.

On June 5, 2020 Corporal Randy Stenger and Constable Jessica Brown were charged with one count of criminal negligence causing death in relation to his death each. Both have been released from custody with conditions, including a prohibition from the possession of firearms. They will appear in Whitecourt Provincial Court on July 14th.

RCMP Alberta Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki says there is a great responsibility placed in the hands of police officers, and they’re called upon to make split-second decisions that can have lasting impacts.

“Those decisions, unfortunately, can sometimes result in a tragic loss of life,” he adds.

Zablocki adds he learned of the pending charges against the two officers on June 5th, at which point, both were suspended with pay.

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