OKOTOKS, Alta. – RCMP in Alberta have taken a rural homeowner into custody after a shooting that police allege happened when he confronted two people rummaging through his vehicles.
Police say members from their detachment in Okotoks were called to the property at around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday.
They say that during the confrontation between the owner and the suspects, an unknown number of shots were fired before the suspects fled.
Later, police found one person with an injury to his arm, but police were still seeking a second person on Sunday.
Last fall, Alberta’s Opposition called for an emergency debate in the legislature to deal with rural crime and the subject came up following this month’s acquittal of a Saskatchewan farmer in the shooting death of an Indigenous man on his property.
But police are urging people not to pursue or engage with suspicious individuals and to instead immediately report incidents.
“We encourage property owners to not attempt to pursue or subdue any suspects, with the main reason, public safety. We don’t want to see people getting hurt,” Sgt. Shawn French said Sunday.
“We’re trained to handle these situations. We do treat them as priority calls and we try to get there in as most expeditious manner as possible.”
French said the investigation into Saturday’s incident is ongoing and information wasn’t available on whether it was the homeowner or the suspects who fired the shots. He also did not have information on whether a firearm has been seized as part of the investigation.
French wouldn’t speculate on whether the homeowner would face charges.
The suspect who was apprehended was taken to hospital and is expected to recover, police said. They noted there is no danger to the public.
Rural crime on the Prairies, and what landowners are allowed to do about it, has come up a lot recently.
A crowdfunding website for Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley, who was acquitted last month of second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie, has raised over $223,000.
The jury heard that Boushie and some friends had been drinking before they broke into a truck on one farm, then headed onto Stanley’s property to ask for help for a flat tire. Stanley testified that he thought his ATV was being stolen. After firing warning shots, he said his gun went off accidentally, striking Boushie in the head as he sat in the group’s SUV.
In the year following Boushie’s death, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities called for the federal government to expand the rights and justification for people to defend themselves, people under their care and their property. Both Ottawa and Saskatchewan officials dismissed the idea.
Meanwhile, an Alberta man, Daniel Wayne Newsham, will face a manslaughter trial in December after police allege he was involved in a fatal collision that happened when he pursued a truck stolen from a rural property in August 2016. Stanley Dick, who was the lone occupant of the truck, died in the crash.
Some landowners have noted that calling police is ineffective because officers are far away and criminals are long gone by the time the authorities arrive.
French, however, noted police arrived quickly in Saturday’s incident.
“It’s my understanding that in this instance specifically, from the time that we received the dispatch, we were on scene from within five to seven minutes,” he said.
—by Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton