Young mother describes terrifying moments before man fatally shot by Saskatoon police

The police 'BearCat' vehicle in seen in the yard where an armed man was fatally shot by police on Thursday. (Dan Zakreski/CBC - image credit)
The police 'BearCat' vehicle in seen in the yard where an armed man was fatally shot by police on Thursday. (Dan Zakreski/CBC - image credit)

Julia Gamble says she remembers crawling across her living room floor, cradling her two-year-old son, wondering why armed men were racing through her yard.

It was Thursday, around dinnertime. The Saskatoon woman and her partner, James Newman, were just settling down for the evening when they heard a commotion at the two-storey house next door, at 1344 Avenue E North.

"We're like, 'What the heck is going on?'" she said in an interview.

"So he [Newman] stands up and sees a [gun] barrel, point blank, pointed right at our house. So he immediately says, 'Get down!' And then we go crawling to my room.

"We didn't know it was cops at first because they weren't wearing any gear."

In a news release Friday, police said officers were alerted late Thursday that a 36-year-old man wanted by La Loche RCMP was in the 1300 block of Avenue E North and was armed with a gun.

"The male was in breach of release conditions and had removed his electronic monitoring device.  Officers reported the male pointed his firearm at them both inside and outside the multi-unit residence," the release said.

Dan Zakreski/CBC
Dan Zakreski/CBC

Police fatally shot the man.

Gamble said she heard the shots fired.

"We're just hugging each other, staying down. And then while I come to the front, and then I notice, like, this whole block is covered with cops and they all have drawn guns at this house," she said.

"And I'm like, going crazy. Like, are we gonna get caught up in the fire? Like, what's gonna happen? … I have my son, right? So obviously I'm gonna be that much more scared."

Then she heard a thump on her front deck. Looking out, she saw there was an armed man in street clothes — "he just had the gun, and I was terrified" — who quickly reassured her that he was a police officer.

"He's like, 'I'm with the police, I'm fine, you guys need to get out of here.' So basically, he's like 'Get your sweater and shoes and get out.' He's like, 'The shooter was just in your yard two minutes ago.'

"And I'm like, what the hell? Like, an armed shooter, right?"

Gamble, Newman and her son were taken to safety.

"It was just hard to comprehend everything.… It's like everything was going in slow motion, especially hearing the shots fired because it was so close to home," she said.

The incident also affected Mayfair School, which is directly across the street from the house.

Jennifer Lyons with the Saskatoon Public School Board said parent-teacher interviews were underway when police notified the school, which went into lockdown. That meant no one in the school was allowed out, and upcoming interviews were cancelled.

Children from the daycare, who were in the playground, were taken to safety inside the school. The lockdown was lifted around 7:30 p.m. CST.

An investigation into the shooting will be led by the Regina Police Service with assistance from the Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team.

The Saskatoon Police Service also asked for two independent observers be involved in the investigation.