'Somewhat shocked': Criminal lawyer questions use of force in deadly Calgary police pursuit
A prominent criminal lawyer is questioning the use of force in a deadly police pursuit in Calgary on Monday.
"Frankly, I was somewhat shocked that this would have led to killing two people," said Tom Engel, chair of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association (CTA) policing committee.
The incident started around 10 a.m. in northeast Calgary on Manning Close, after a security guard reported three possibly intoxicated people in a stolen cube van.
Shortly after, police got several calls about that van being driven erratically, but slowly, as it headed west on Memorial Drive.
Multiple police cruisers blocked overpasses and bridges to stop it from going downtown.
At Edmonton Trail, the van made a U-turn and headed east toward St. George’s Drive.
Police say they attempted to contain the van, but it continued moving toward officers.
The situation escalated around 11 a.m. when one officer, a 13-year-member of the Calgary Police Service, fired their gun, killing two people.
A third person was injured and arrested. No officers or bystanders were hurt.
Engel takes on many policing cases and says lethal force cannot be used unless it’s necessary to protect lives.
"Nothing that I’ve read or seen indicates that there was that danger," he said.
"The slow, meandering of the van… there was no risk to anybody."
Kelly Sundberg, a criminologist and associate professor at Mount Royal University, disagrees, saying the van can be considered a weapon.
"A cube van is a sizeable vehicle and even at a low speed, can kill somebody, so if a cube van is being used erratically and is endangering the lives of people, the police have an obligation to end that threat," he said.
Sundberg says police must respond to threats like this in a reasonable and proportionate manner.
"This is a really, really tragic situation where police, their options for ending this became more and more limited as time progressed," he said.
Engel questions if other measures, like Tasers, were used first, and is calling for police to release video of the incident to the public.
"If this happened in the United States, by now, in most cases, it would’ve all been released to the public, and that’s a real problem with transparency and accountability," he said.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating, as it does in all police-involved shootings, to determine if the use of force was justified.
Calgary police said they will not comment on the matter while ASIRT's investigation is underway.