Shot 10 times: Lawyers say Mounties acted in self-defence in deadly Alberta shooting

EDMONTON — Two Alberta Mounties accused of manslaughter acted in self-defence when they shot a man in a pickup truck 10 times, defence lawyers told a jury Monday.

Const. Jessica Brown and Cpl. Randy Stegner of the Whitecourt RCMP pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in the death of Clayton Crawford, as well as aggravated assault.

The jury heard that the two officers fired 11 shots on July 3, 2018, at the purple Dodge truck that was believed to be connected to a shooting the day before in Valhalla Centre, a hamlet 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Crawford suffered 10 gunshot wounds, said prosecutor Linda Shin in her opening argument.

She called the shooting "unnecessary and unreasonable."

The jury heard that Crawford was wanted on warrants at the time. He had previously been arrested for discharging a firearm and was known to police as being involved in the drug trade.

Brown’s defence lawyer Robb Beeman said a potential dispute over a "drug den" could have instigated the shooting in Valhalla Centre.

Lawyers said it's unclear whether Crawford was a suspect or a target in the shooting in the hamlet, as several vehicles were seen fleeing the area. Crawford’s girlfriend was shot in the leg and was rushed to a hospital for surgery.

The trial was told that the truck took off and was seen the next day at the Chickadee Creek rest stop about 50 kilometres northwest of Whitecourt. The sighting was reported by an off-duty officer.

Three other officers, including Brown and Stegner, responded to the rest area. Crawford was sleeping when they approached the vehicle and told him to put his hands up, said Beeman.

There was a struggle between Crawford and the three officers, Beeman said, and Crawford tried to "aggressively" drive away.

Brown shot at the vehicle eight times with a semi-automatic rifle, while Stegner fired a semi-automatic handgun three times, said Shin.

Beeman said his client acknowledges that she fired her rifle, but she feared for her life and the lives of her fellow officers. The truck missed hitting Brown by inches, the lawyer said.

RCMP later found a machete in the truck and a butcher knife under its front seat, said Beeman.

Three police cruisers at the scene were equipped with cameras that recorded the shooting, said Shin, adding the footage is crucial evidence that will be shown during the three-week trial.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Angela Amato, The Canadian Press