NEWS
02/15/2017 15:19 EST | Updated 02/16/2018 00:12 EST

Fatality inquiry into RCMP shooting of Lance Cutarm makes no recommendations

WARNING: This story contains language some readers may find offensive.

A fatality inquiry report into the death of Lance Cutarm, who was shot and killed by an RCMP officer at Ma-Me-O Beach in 2013, makes no recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

In a report released Wednesday, provincial court Judge Albert Skinner said RCMP Cpl. Kevin Krebs was acting within the execution of his duties when he shot the 30-year-old Cutarm twice in the torso during a chaotic encounter after a traffic stop.

Krebs, who had been with the RCMP for 14 years, also shot and wounded Laron Cutarm, one of Lance Cutarm's brothers.

"After hearing testimony and reviewing all of the evidence, this court finds the use of lethal force by Cpl. Krebs was reasonable in all of the circumstance in order to protect himself from imminent and serious harm," Skinner wrote.

The inquiry was held in late November and early December in Wetaskiwin.

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Skinner found "no evidence" to support allegations made by the victim's relatives that the officer's response to the danger he perceived was racially motivated.

No racial comments were recorded on the in-car video camera in Krebs' RCMP vehicle or in his radio communications.

"In fact, even at the heightened emotions of the officer to the danger he faced, and his emphatic use of swear words to convey the seriousness of the situation to them, no racially charged words can be heard," the judge wrote.

Skinner rejected suggestions made by a lawyer for the Cutarm family that he said would ease perceived tensions between the RCMP and the Ermineskin Cree Nation.

The suggestions included Aboriginal cultural training for RCMP officers and wider use of Cree interpreters during investigations.

The suggestions "go outside the mandate of the court," Skinner wrote.

"Given the findings of the facts in this situation, this court cannot say that the implementation of these recommendations would have changed the outcome, and therefore I make no recommendations that would prevent similar deaths in similar situations."

Officer suspected driver was impaired

The incident began at 9 p.m. on Aug. 3, 2013 after a passenger in a pickup truck flashed a hand gesture at Krebs and another officer near Ma-Me-O Beach on Pigeon Lake, 90 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.

Krebs pursued the pickup in his unmarked police vehicle. The truck eventually came to a stop in the driveway of a rural home.

Krebs suspected driver Larry Cutarm had been drinking. He smelled strongly of alcohol and his speech was slurred. Krebs asked him to get out of the truck so they could talk in the police vehicle. The driver resisted and scuffled with the officer.

While this was happening, four men — Larry Cutarm's sons Lee, Lance and Laron, and their uncle, Victor Cutarm — got out of the truck's passenger side.

Brothers approached officer

The brothers, all adults who were larger than Krebs, approached the officer, who warned them to back off.

"The officer stated, 'I will shoot you f--ker,' " Skinner wrote.

They continued to approach and he ran down a slight slope into a yard.

"At that time he drew his firearm and again warned the brothers not to approach any further by stating, 'I will f--king shoot you,' " Skinner wrote.

They continued toward him. Krebs tried to use his pepper spray and then tripped on the guy line for a tent and fell to the ground.

Lance Cutarm came at the officer directly as Laron approached from Krebs' right side.

Krebs, who testified he was "scared shitless" and thought the brothers wanted to severely injure or kill him, fired twice at Lance Cutarm from about six feet away, and then shot at Laron Cutarm, hitting him in the left armpit.

Witness testimony problematic

Skinner found that Krebs' testimony was supported by his own previous statements to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) and with video evidence and physical evidence.

But the civilian witnesses "were in various states of intoxication at the scene" and their testimony had severe contradictions that could not be reconciled with video evidence, physical evidence at the scene or their own previous statements to authorities, the judge found.

The medical examiner found Lance Cutarm's blood alcohol content was between 270 and 310 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Tests showed Laron Cutarm's blood alcohol level was 207 mg/100 ml of blood.

None of the Cutarms had any weapons, the judge said in his report.

In January 2015, ASIRT ruled that Krebs acted properly in the execution of his duties and that his use of force was reasonable and justified in the circumstances.

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