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Man charged in fatal U-Haul hit-and-run in southeast Edmonton

RCMP Supt. Leanne MacMillan, assistant central Alberta district officer, says the investigation is ongoing despite the arrest. (Chris Mihalaides/CBC - image credit)
RCMP Supt. Leanne MacMillan, assistant central Alberta district officer, says the investigation is ongoing despite the arrest. (Chris Mihalaides/CBC - image credit)

A 35-year-old man described by police as a "prolific offender" has been charged with dangerous driving causing death and other offences after last weekend's fatal hit-and-run in southeast Edmonton.

At a news conference Thursday, police identified Peter Richard Ashby, of no fixed address, as the driver of a U-Haul truck that struck and killed Kassandra Gartner, a 45-year-old woman from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and injured another person in southeast Edmonton Saturday night.

Earlier this week, RCMP announced an arrest had been made Tuesday night in Wainwright, Alta., 205 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, but did not identify the person.

"We are pleased to announce of [Tuesday's] arrest, but are ever reminded of this tragic loss of life," RCMP Supt. Leanne MacMillan, assistant central Alberta district officer, told media Thursday.

MacMillan described Ashby as "the definition of a prolific offender."

At the time of his arrest, Ashby was wanted by Spruce Grove RCMP, the Edmonton Police Service and police in Saskatchewan on theft, break-in and other charges.

"When we do speak of prolific offenders, they are multi-jurisdictional, so, in multiple areas," MacMillan said.

Ashby is facing 10 charges in connection to last weekend's incident, including dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, failure to stop at an accident causing death, car theft, mail theft, flight from police, and two counts of assaulting a police officer with a weapon.

He remains in custody and is scheduled to appear in court March 7.

On Saturday night, Beaumont RCMP had found someone suspected of theft in the U-Haul truck.

MacMillan said Thursday that Ashby was suspected of stealing Amazon packages in Beaumont. RCMP first located the U-Haul truck outside a Shoppers Drug Mart in Beaumont, just south of Edmonton, MacMillan said.

Two people were inside: a male driver and a female passenger, police said. When police approached to make an arrest, the driver rammed into a police cruiser and fled.

A chase ensued as the truck headed north toward Edmonton, involving multiple nearby RCMP detachments and the Edmonton Police Service's Air One helicopter, police said.

RCMP deployed a spike belt near 50th Street and 22nd Avenue S.W., in Edmonton. Three civilian vehicles, including Gartner's, drove over the spike belt.

Gartner got out of her vehicle and was inspecting it when she was struck by the U-Haul truck, which continued driving, police said.

A woman was killed and another person was injured after the U-Haul truck struck two separate vehicles Saturday night. (Submitted by Ranjodh Johal)

Gartner, who had three young daughters and worked as executive director of the Fort Saskatchewan Food Bank, died from her injuries. A candlelight vigil to honour her is planned for Fort Saskatchewan City Hall at 6:30 p.m. MT tonight.

The driver of a second vehicle hit by the U-Haul truck was sent to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said. The truck's driver then left it and stole a car parked at a nearby 7-Eleven that had a child inside.

The child was found unharmed near 66th Street and 25th Avenue and was reunited with family, police said. The suspect had fled in the stolen vehicle.

On Monday, RCMP said the car — a grey Honda Civic — was found abandoned Sunday evening in a rural area just outside Wainwright. RCMP later announced someone was arrested in the town Tuesday night.

The suspect bunkered in a Wainwright residence, said RCMP Insp. Carson Creaser, of the central Alberta district.

There was a "brief negotiation" to have him surrender and Wainwright RCMP called in its emergency response team, but within an hour, Mounties successfully negotiated that the suspect turn himself over.

RCMP Insp. Carson Creaser told reporters a 'brief negotiation' was needed to take the suspect into custody.
RCMP Insp. Carson Creaser told reporters a 'brief negotiation' was needed to take the suspect into custody.

RCMP Insp. Carson Creaser told reporters a 'brief negotiation' was needed to take the suspect into custody. (Chris Mihalaides/CBC)

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the province's primary police oversight agency, is investigating.

ASIRT investigates instances where people are killed or seriously injured during encounters with police, as well as allegations of police misconduct.

MacMillan declined to answer several questions from reporters Thursday, citing the ASIRT investigation. But she said the agency will examine the circumstances around the entire incident, including the suspects in the U-Haul and the use of the spike belt.

The RCMP's own investigation continues, MacMillan said Thursday.