EDMONTON — A second Mountie on trial in the killing of a man at a rest stop says he wanted more information before he and his team approached a pickup truck that he assumed had a shooting suspect inside.
"There isn't a day I don't think about this," Cpl. Randy Stenger told a jury Thursday.
"It's an outcome no sane or reasonable person wants to be responsible for."
Stenger, 45, and Const. Jessica Brown, 31, have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault in the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Clayton Crawford on July 3, 2018, near Whitecourt, Alta., northwest of Edmonton.
Court heard Crawford was shot 10 times. Lawyers for the Mounties have said the officers feared for their safety and acted in self-defence.
A day earlier, there had been a shooting in the hamlet of Valhalla Centre. Crawford’s girlfriend was shot in the leg and his purple truck and other vehicles were seen leaving the area.
The jury has heard there may have been a drug dispute and Crawford could have been a target of the Valhalla Centre shooting. There was then confusion with the RCMP over whether he was a suspect.
Brown testified Wednesday that a clerk with the Grande Prairie RCMP detachment told her over the phone that an off-duty officer had spotted a purple truck matching the description of the one seen fleeing the Valhalla Centre shooting. Brown also spoke with another officer, Cpl. Eldon Chillog.
Brown told the jury that she believed Crawford was a suspect. However, Chillog testified he did not tell Brown that Crawford was a suspect and Mounties just wanted to speak with him.
Stenger testified Brown relayed to him that the man in the truck was believed to be a suspect in a shooting.
"The only thing I understood at the time was that we go confirm that the suspect vehicle is at the rest stop," Stenger said.
"(Brown) sounded pretty confident that it could have been the target or potential shooter in the vehicle."
Stenger said he had more questions for Brown and some concerns.
"I wanted more information before we approached the vehicle."
He said it didn't make sense that no further details were given to Brown by officers or clerks in Grande Prairie.
"Because we are receiving information from officers, we trust that it is accurate," Stenger told the jury.
Court heard Stenger, Brown and another officer, Const. Ian Paddick, had on hard body armour when they approached the truck at the Chickadee Creek rest stop. It appeared Crawford was reclined in his seat and sleeping.
Paddick, armed with a stun gun, knocked on the driver's window. Brown said she saw the man in the truck reach in between his legs. Paddick then broke a window with a baton and tried to pull Crawford's hands up. Brown also became involved in the struggle.
The jury heard that Crawford started the truck and began driving backward. Brown testified she thought Crawford was using the vehicle as a weapon and she feared for her life and the lives of her colleagues.
Court also heard Thursday that Stenger fired four shots with a semi-automatic pistol and Brown fired eight shots with a carbine rifle. The jury previously heard that Stenger fired three times.
"At that time, it was an automatic reaction to discharge my firearm," Stenger said.
"There is no doubt in my mind that someone would have been killed."
The jury has heard that Crawford had methamphetamines in his blood at the time of his death. RCMP later found a machete and a butcher knife in his truck.
Stenger said he has been on leave from the RCMP and is a stay-at-home father to his two teen daughters. He also volunteers at his church.
The trial is set to wrap up next week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Angela Amato, The Canadian Press