St. Arnaud Case - Use of deadly force justified, but RCMP investigation inadequate



    SURREY, BC, May 27 /CNW Telbec/ - After an extensive investigation into
the circumstances surrounding the December 19, 2004 shooting death of Kevin
St. Arnaud in Vanderhoof, B.C., the Chair of the Commission for Public
Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) has determined that based on the
preponderance of evidence, the use of deadly force by RCMP Constable Ryan
Sheremetta was justified.
    "Constable Sheremetta shot Mr. St. Arnaud in self-defence after
reasonably perceiving that Mr. St. Arnaud posed a threat of grievous bodily
harm or death," said Paul E. Kennedy, CPC Chair.
    Mr. Kennedy also determined that some elements of the RCMP investigation
conducted into Mr. St. Arnaud's death were inadequate and below the standard
the public expects of the federal force. Specifically, the RCMP failed to
secure the scene of the incident, resulting in the contamination of the site
by other officers.
    Additionally, some elements of the RCMP investigation lacked impartiality
and the investigation team failed to follow the RCMP's own Major Case
Management Model. These inadequacies caused the CPC to reject some evidence
surrounding the shooting incident and accept only highly credible information,
testimony and eye witness accounts.

    Background

    Mr. St. Arnaud was shot in the early hours of December 19, 2004 following
a police pursuit which commenced after Mr. St. Arnaud broke into a pharmacy in
Vanderhoof, B.C. Two RCMP officers subsequently pursued Mr. St. Arnaud-who was
on foot-in separate vehicles through the snow and ice-covered streets and
parking lots of Vanderhoof. Constable Ryan Sheremetta eventually chased the
suspect on foot to a soccer field yelling at him to stop. Mr. St. Arnaud
eventually stopped, turned around and advanced towards the officer, failing to
stop. Constable Sheremetta then shot Mr. St. Arnaud three times in the chest.
    Constable Sheremetta later recounted that as he was stepping away from
Mr. St. Arnaud, he slipped and fell on his back. From this position, he shot
Mr. St. Arnaud. This testimony differs from that of RCMP Constable Colleen
Erickson, who had just arrived on the scene at the time of the incident.
Constable Erickson observed Mr. St. Arnaud charging at Constable Sheremetta
and the latter subsequently shooting Mr. St. Arnaud twice while standing
approximately two feet away.
    An autopsy confirmed that Mr. St. Arnaud had been shot three times in the
chest.

    CPC Findings

    Mr. Kennedy concluded through his investigation of all available credible
evidence that Mr. St. Arnaud did in fact pose a threat of grievous bodily harm
or death to Constable Sheremetta. Therefore, Constable Sheremetta reasonably
perceived that he was shooting Mr. St. Arnaud in self-defence.
    In this case, like the vast majority of cases, it is evident that eye
witness accounts are not always entirely reliable. Constable Sheremetta's
perception of the incident was likely affected by his heightened state of
anxiety. Constable Erickson's recollection of the precise details was not
perfect either. However, the key circumstances of the shooting were
sufficiently corroborated by a biomechanics expert who determined, through
analysis of footprints, that Mr. St. Arnaud was moving towards Constable
Sheremetta with an increasing stride length.
    With regards to the identified deficiencies of the RCMP investigation,
the RCMP Commissioner accepted the major findings and recommendations outlined
in Mr. Kennedy's report.
    The aim of the CPC's review of complaints is to improve the performance
of the RCMP and its members by emphasizing best policing practices. In the
context of a death in custody or other serious matters in which the police
investigate themselves, failing to abide by best practices will inevitably
fuel perception that police treat force members more favourably than members
of the public.
    "A frank acknowledgement of deficiencies or errors, where they exist,
serves to establish that the RCMP is not only accountable for its actions but
that it is a principled organization worthy of the public trust," said Mr.
Kennedy.




For further information:

For further information: Nelson Kalil, Manager, Communications, (613)
952-2452, nelson.kalil@cpc-cpp.gc.ca; www.complaintscommission.ca;
www.commissiondesplaintes.ca

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Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP

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