EDMONTON – Two Alberta Mounties charged with manslaughter acted in self-defense when they shot 10 times a man in a pickup truck, defense attorneys told a jury Monday.
constant Jessica Brown and Cpl. Randy Stegner of the Whitecourt RCMP pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in the death of Clayton Crawford and to the aggravated assault.
The jury heard that on July 3, 2018, the two officers fired 11 shots at the purple Dodge truck believed to be connected to a shooting the previous day in Valhalla Centre, a hamlet 500 kilometers northwest of Edmonton was standing.
Crawford suffered 10 gunshot wounds, prosecutor Linda Shin said in her opening statement.
She called the shooting “unnecessary and unreasonable.”
The jury heard that Crawford was wanted on a warrant at the time. He had previously been arrested for shooting a firearm and was known to police as being involved in drug trafficking.
Brown’s defense attorney Robb Beeman said a possible dispute over a “drug den” may have sparked the Valhalla Center shooting.
Lawyers said it was unclear whether Crawford was a suspect or a target in the shooting in the hamlet, as several vehicles fled the area. Crawford’s girlfriend was shot in the leg and taken to a hospital for surgery.
The trial was told the truck was leaving and was seen the next day at the Chickadee Creek rest stop about 50 kilometers northwest of Whitecourt. The sighting was reported by an off-duty officer.
Three other officers, including Brown and Stegner, moved to the rest area. Crawford was asleep when they approached the vehicle and told him to put his hands up, Beeman said.
There was a fight between Crawford and the three officers, Beeman said, and Crawford attempted to drive away “aggressively.”
Brown fired at the vehicle eight times with a semi-automatic rifle, while Stegner fired three times with a semi-automatic pistol, Shin said.
Beeman said his client admitted she fired her rifle, but she feared for her life and the lives of her colleagues. The truck missed Brown by inches, the attorney said.
RCMP later found a machete in the truck and a butcher knife under the front seat, Beeman said.
Three police cruisers at the scene were equipped with cameras that recorded the shooting, Shin said, adding that the footage was crucial evidence to be shown during the three-week trial.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 21, 2022.
This story was produced with financial support from Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Angela Amato, The Canadian Press