Edmonton jury hears dramatic recordings of police chase through downtown streets

Const. Brodie Quenneville Thorpe had only been a police officer for eight days when he ended up in a high-speed chase through the streets of downtown Edmonton.

Hours after a fellow officer was stabbed near Commonwealth Stadium, Thorpe and his training partner were operating a checkpoint at 112th Avenue, just west of Wayne Gretzky Drive.

They were on the lookout for a suspect who had hit Const. Michael Chernyk with a car that evening, then stabbed him in the head. 

Abdulahi Sharif is on trial for five counts of attempted murder. He's accused of trying to kill Chernyk, along with four pedestrians, on the evening of Sept. 30, 2017.

On Tuesday, Thorpe told the jury a U-Haul truck approached his checkpoint at 11:31 p.m. He shone his flashlight inside the cab and saw a man behind the wheel who matched the suspect's description. 

"It appeared to me as though he had been sweating profusely," Thorpe said. "And he appeared nervous as we made eye contact."

Court Exhibit/Edmonton Police Service

Thorpe told the driver to pull over to the side of the road. Sgt. Roy Paulino approached the truck and asked the driver for his licence. 

Paulino said as he walked back to his car with the licence, the driver jumped back in the truck and sped away. 

The chase was on. 

The Crown asked Thorpe what was going through his mind at the time. 

"A number of things," he said. "We were unsure what was inside the vehicle. At first, I believed that there may be some sort of device inside the vehicle which could have gone off at any time." 

Police chased the U-Haul into downtown Edmonton. The truck often drove on the wrong side of the road, ran red lights and narrowly missed other vehicles. 

'Pedestrians hit. Pedestrians hit' 

A tactical team took over from Paulino as lead vehicle, just as the U-Haul made a sharp turn into a narrow alley near 109th Street. The alley was filled with people out enjoying the warm evening. 

What happened next was captured on recordings of police radios.

"Pedestrians hit. Pedestrians hit," one officer said.

"OK, tactical," the officer in charge responded. "Direct vehicle contact to end this as quickly as possible."

Two more pedestrians were hit just outside Audreys Books at 107th Street and Jasper Avenue. 

"Guys, we need to take that vehicle, right now!" one officer shouted. 

Officers were told to "use all means necessary" to stop the truck.

Sgt. Paulino and Const. Thorpe were still involved in the pursuit. 

"I had my service pistol in my hand while sitting in the passenger seat," Thorpe testified. "And if the opportunity presented itself, I knew that I may be required to use it.

"I told him to be prepared that I might have to pull up alongside him," Paulino said. "He may have to shoot this guy."

A Ford F-150 truck driven by the tactical team deliberately slammed into the U-Haul, flipping the truck on its side. 

Officers smashed the windshield and tried to pull the driver out.

Two Tasers were simultaneously deployed and Paulino said the driver "buckled inside the cab."

"I dropped my Taser on the ground," Paulino testified. "I reached in with both hands and grabbed the accused by the right arm. I pulled him out through the windshield and onto the ground on his belly." 

Paulino handcuffed the suspect.

"What was his demeanour?" Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Wheaton asked. 

"Quiet," Paulino said. "He appeared despondent, low spirits. Loss of hope."