Police officer cleared in fatal north Edmonton crash: ASIRT

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Edmonton police investigating suspicious death of man in late 50s

An Edmonton police officer has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in a deadly multi-vehicle crash in northwest Edmonton last March.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has concluded its investigation of the three-vehicle collision, which left two people dead and two others seriously injured, ASIRT announced in a news release on Thursday.

On March 13, 2016, at about 5:25 a.m., the police officer was monitoring traffic in the area of 121st Avenue and 82nd Street when he spotted a Chevrolet Monte Carlo speeding down 82nd Street. The officer began to pursue the car through residential streets.

As the officer was travelling down 81st Street, the Monte Carlo charged toward his police cruiser, forcing him to swerve in order to avoid a head-on collision.

Out of concern for public safety, the officer was ordered to call off the pursuit. He pulled over and lost sight of the vehicle, ASIRT said.

Forty seconds later, the Monte Carlo, speeding north, ran a red light at corner of 50th Street and Manning Freeway, and slammed into two other vehicles.

The passengers in the back seat of the Monte Carlo, Leonard Cardinal, 29, and Nicole Cheecham, 23, were pronounced dead at the scene.

A third passenger from the Monte Carlo was found injured on the ground and taken to hospital with a fractured spine, fractured pelvis and ruptured bladder. The driver, Evan Lee Gladue of Cold Lake, was also seriously injured.

None of the occupants in the other two vehicles sustained serious injuries, but their vehicles were heavily damaged.

Susan Hughson, ASIRT's executive director, has concluded that the officer was "lawfully placed at all times and was acting in the lawful execution of his duties" and did not "unduly escalate" the situation.

"ASIRT's investigation determined the officer was entitled to initiate the traffic stop," reads a statement from Hughson's office.

"It was also clear that at no point in time was the officer close enough to the Monte Carlo for his conduct to be considered as a criminal flight response, commonly referred to as a pursuit, nor was the officer in close enough proximity to directly impact the driver's operation of the vehicle prior to, or at the time of the collision.

"The officer not only took the appropriate steps as this incident unfolded, but also proceeded to follow direction given by his supervisor."

In November, the 26-year-old Gladue pleaded guilty in provincial court to two counts of dangerous driving causing death, one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and one count of disqualified driving in the case.

A public fatality inquiry will be scheduled to further review the case, ASIRT said.