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High Speed Cop Chases

Bystander hurt, after wild police pursuit in Saskatoon

One person is hurt, several police cruisers are damaged and 25-year-old Timothy Gunn is in custody following a wild pursuit through Saskatoon streets just before rush hour.

Police said the pursuit began shortly after they received a call about a truck being driven in an erratic way around Avenue I and 19th Street West. A patrol car came across the suspect, in an alley, but when the officer signalled the driver to stop, he took off.

A pursuit ensued, but police said it was called off at 8th Street and Lorne Avenue due to safety concerns.

Around the same time, however, another officer had deployed devices called stop sticks (similar to spike belts) ahead of a possible route by the suspect. The driver came upon the sticks but swerved to avoid them which led to several vehicles on 20th Street getting struck.

Further along, the suspect came upon another police cruiser and ran into it, disabling the patrol car.

The rampage continued when the driver next ran into a number of civilian vehicles on the road. One of those collisions led to a person suffering injuries and being taken to hospital.

The situation became very scary when the black truck turned back onto Avenue Q and 24th Street and returned to the spot when a police cruiser had been disabled.

"An officer was standing on the sidewalk where several citizens had gathered," police said. "He began shouting at the citizens to move to safety."

Then, as the suspect vehicle bore down on him, the officer fired two shots at the truck.

Having avoided those, the suspect continued on. That's when another officer crashed into the truck, leading to the man's ultimate arrest.

Police say high speed chase suspect shot himself

WYNYARD - Police now say a man who died after a high speed chase Friday near Wynyard shot himself.

"It appears the lone male occupant of the vehicle died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound." said RCMP Sgt. Ron Toogood.

RCMP were pursuing a man in a stolen car with several weapons who had left a gas pump in the town of Raymore without paying.

Sgt. Ron Toogood with the RCMP says that during a ninety minute chase police vehicles were shot at several times.

"Approximately one hour into the chase there was an exchange of gunfire. At least one shot was fired by an RCMP member. The suspect vehicle became stuck in a field and from investigation to date it appears the lone male occupant of the vehicle died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound."

The man's name has not been released.

The Regina major crimes unit is investigating the incident.

Reckless Chase by Saskatoon cops ends in two deaths: cops blame kid; media joins the chorus

Update: Dec. 10, 1999: After a preliminary hearing where it was established that Derek Caron has been ordered to stand trial on two counts involving reckless driving leading to death. The Crown presented evidence that Caron was very drunk and that he had probably been smoking marijuana before the incident which led to the charges. Oddly, a publication ban was placed on the proceedings of the inquiry and injusticebusters have to ask why? What overriding interest would stand before the public's right to be informed?

The public interest would be served in several ways by reporting more information than the fact that Caron was wearing a grey suit and white shirt, one of the details the StarPhoenix saw fit to publish. In fact Caron was poorly represented and the public might also want to know that he could be stacking up appeal points while the proceedings go on behind closed doors. The police and the general public are no doubt in agreement that Caron is a dangerous individual who should be locked up. The truth is that he could be soundly convicted based on the merits of the Crown's case against him.

The public interest would also be served by the cops who gave chase giving a reasonable explanation of why, on a Sunday evening in the downtown area they provoked an individual they knew to be drunk and dangerous. Surviving Nordham family members were in Court to witness the indictment. The police have managed to spin the full blame in the direction of Caron. Too bad. The public has no assurance that under the same circumstances the cops wouldn't behave the same way, and with similar results

inJusticebusters is pleased to report that Saskatoon police are reviewing their policy regarding high speed chases, that the media has cooled its heels a bit. The Crown has so far not overplayed this incident at Reid's bail hearing, and the Court was even-handed at the first two appearances on this matter. injusticebusters hope that the police review reflects upon the lethal power of the automobile and place as strict controls on this weapon as it does upon guns. That is, every time the police give chase, they should be required to complete a full report explaining why. Stats should be reviewed regularly. Feb. 25, 1999

In New York City, they use guns and in Saskatoon they use cars. The dead and those left behind don't much care what the lethal weapon was. It's hard to prove that an innocent bystander was shot by someone else with the police gun so we don't get many stories like that. However, the use of the police car as weapon should be much easier to prove. The police who gave chase in this incident are as guilty of murdering the Rosetown couple as if they had shot them.

Within minutes of the incident, news reports with PR and damage control all over them were in the air. Were the public relations folks on board even before the families were notified? Who did these anonymous hot rodding cops call first? The ambulance or the head of Police PR?

The media has lapped it up, running with the information that Derek Caron had an extensive police record. Both local tv stations showed streeters with citizenry calling for Caron to be locked up and the key thrown away. This certainly diverts attention from the reckless behavior of the police. The police are absolutely not supposed to release any portion of a young offender's record to anyone, except to a judge in court for information on sentencing. Not as a "leak" and certainly not as a press release, which would seem to be what Glenn Thomson has done!

The young people involved in this incident cannot possibly get a fair hearing in the wake of the frenzy which has been stirred up by the cop PR machine and served to the populace by its faithful servants in the media!

Let's tell the same story from a different angle.

  • A couple of teenage punks are out at 8.30 on Sunday night.
  • The city is quiet.
  • They steal a van from outside a grocery store.
  • The theft is reported.
  • A patrol car spots the stolen van; it pulls up behind with its flashers on; the van keeps going.
  • The cops give chase, within the downtown core.
  • The teenagers do a quick 180 to head the other way.
  • They slam into a car driven by a highschool principal who, with his wife is driving through a green light.
  • Both the principal and his wife are killed.

This is a story of reckless actions and senseless death. The police say that they have a policy regarding high speed chases but they are not prepared to say what it is. So we are left to guess: My guess is that it authorises the patrol police to use their own judgment.

The police also say that the car thief and driver is a bad and dangerous person. How did they know who the thief was and whether or not he was out past a court-ordered curfew? They had spotted a stolen van and the plates would certainly not reveal the identity of the thief.

Police are far too inclined to use as openers measures which should only be used as last resorts. Car chases are one such measure. (Taking young people into custody on warrants for minor offences is another.)

Whatever their rationalisation for starting the chase which ended in two deaths Sunday night, it is not good enough. Why have they not released the names of the police who were directly involved in the chase? What are their names and what platoon are they on?

The StarPhoenix reports appear below:

Rosetown couple killed in crash
Husband and wife broadsided in downtown

The principal of Rosetown Central High School and his wife were killed Sunday night in Saskatoon when thieves in a stolen car ran a red light and broadsided their vehicle during a high-speed chase.

Trevor Nordholm was pronounced dead on arrival at Royal University Hospital. His wife Verne died at the hospital early Monday.

Police are still investigating the circumstances of the accident, which happened shortly after 10 p.m. at the intersection of Second Avenue and 22nd Street West.

Chief Dave Scott was at the scene Sunday and said later, "I am satisfied that our members behaved and acted properly."

The stolen car was operated by 19-year-old Derek Thomas Caron, sources told The StarPhoenix.

The other occupants are aged 18, 21 and 16.

Caron has a record of 70 criminal offences over the past six years and is due in provincial court April 26 for trial on charges of theft. He is also awaiting trial on April 29 for theft and breaching an undertaking, and on May 4 for a burglary charge and for breaching an undertaking.

The Nordholms had come to the city during the weekend to attend a meeting of the West Central school division that started Monday at the Centennial Auditorium. They were returning to the Ramada Hotel after spending the evening at a dinner theatre when the accident happened. The couple had three children. Troy, 25, and Candace, 20, live in Saskatoon. Brent, 23, lives in Prince Albert.

John Ulsifer, education director for the Rosetown division, said Nordholm took the position at the high school, one hour west of Saskatoon, in August after postings at Yorkton, Eston and Biggar.

"He was dedicated to children," a shaken Ulsifer said Monday.

"You knew that in 15 minutes of conversation with the man. His main and primary purpose was the kids."

The couple's sudden death, and the circumstances, cast a pall over the convention. Twenty-four teachers from the Rosetown high school came to the city for the meeting, and many gathered in tight knots in the auditorium basement to weep and reminisce.

"It's an exercise in futility now, being here," one of them said.

Staff from the Rosetown school were called to a separate room Monday and told of the accident. A general announcement was made to the convention later. "We have people who will grieve and attempt to deal with it in their own way," said Ulsifer.

"Attendance at the conference is no longer compulsory, or necessary."

At a news conference Monday, Scott said the chain of events started when four men stole a 1985 Dodge Aries sedan from the Night Owl Grocery on Fairlight Drive at about 8:30 p.m.

Police saw the vehicle 90 minutes later in the downtown and gave chase. Scott said it began on First Avenue, moved to Second Avenue and lasted less than two minutes.

"The stolen vehicle proceeded (along Second) to 19th Street where all indications at the time were that the chase concluded. It looked as if the occupants were going to get out of the stolen vehicle and officers began to take steps to exit in anticipation of a foot chase," he said.

"The stolen vehicle proceeded (along Second) to 19th Street where all indications at the time were that the chase concluded. It looked as if the occupants were going to get out of the stolen vehicle and officers began to take steps to exit in anticipation of a foot chase," he said.

"The stolen vehicle then accelerated backwards, struck one of our cars and did a 180-degree turn and proceeded back north on Second Avenue. The accident occurred within a few seconds."

The stolen Aries hit the Nordholm's red Mercury Sable square on the driver's side. The force of the impact was such that it collapsed the front of the Aries, throwing the front-seat passenger into the windshield and fracturing the glass.

On Monday morning, a partially smoked cigarette could be seen wedged into the cracked glass on the front windshield of the Aries.

The occupants of the stolen vehicle were taken to St. Paul's Hospital with a variety of injuries. The injuries are not considered life threatening.

Scott said an accident study investigative team "will make an accurate determination of all the physical evidence" from the scene. A criminal investigation team will look at the activities of the individuals in the stolen car, he said.

Police would not confirm Caron as the driver of the stolen vehicle. Scott did, however, say the operator is well known to police and a person "we identify as one of our dangerous, habitual offenders.

"We see the tragedy of his continued lifestyle in the senseless death of two responsible citizens of our province."

The man was in violation of a 9 p.m. curfew at the time of the collision, Scott added.

Scott said police involved in the chase took into account road, traffic and pedestrian conditions and reacted properly.

"The conditions in all those areas were promising. There was little or no vehicular traffic downtown, the roads were not congested with snow or rain and there was very little, if any, pedestrian traffic," he said.

"Unfortunately, these incidents occur when you have the type of driving behaviour involved here."

Policy followed in high-speed chases: police

Saskatoon city police have a policy guiding officers in high-speed chases, but on Monday they would not say what it is.

"There is one in place. It gives direction to officers, supervisors, communications staff and there are certain things that they have to do," said Staff Sgt. Glenn Thomson.

"A lot of it are decisions that are made at the time, whether or not to start a pursuit and if they feel the pursuit should end without apprehension, they have the option of doing that."

Staff Sgt. Glenn Thomson

A Rosetown couple was killed in downtown Saskatoon Sunday night when the driver of a stolen car ran a red light and broadsided their vehicle while he was being pursued by police.

"It's hard to generalize because every one is different," Thomson said.

"Every pursuit is different and decisions are being made in split-second time. We know what we should do and what we shouldn't do and we have to make those decisions extremely quickly.

"You take . . . the time, the traffic, the pedestrian traffic, everything like that into consideration in a pursuit.

"The policy cannot say in black and white, you must do this and you must not do this. The policy is a guideline. It's not something that tells you step-by-step like a recipe."

Meanwhile, at a meeting in Regina, the Canadian Police Association (CPA) pointed to the incident as a tragic and fresh example of why Ottawa should amend the Criminal Code to make failure to stop for police a crime.

The proposal is set out in a private member's bill by Manitoba Liberal MP Dan McTeague and has been endorsed by the national police association. The bill proposes a maximum jail term of two years.

"Failing to stop for a police officer should be a criminal offence," said Bernie Eiswirth, a Regina police officer and the Saskatchewan representative on the board of the CPA.

The offence is currently cited in the Highway Traffic Act, not the Criminal Code, Eiswirth said. "Unless you do it 10 times a month or something, you wouldn't go to jail, you'd just get a fine."

Drivers who speed away from police demonstrate "extremely high intent" to disobey the law and should be treated more severely by the courts, said Grant Obst, a Saskatoon police officer who is president of the Canadian Police Association.

And the courts should treat a driver the same whether or not anyone was hurt or killed as a result of the chase, in recognition of the risk that person took and as a deterrent to other drivers, he said.

In other, similar pursuits that ended without incident, "it's not uncommon to see periods of probation given for those types of offences.

"The sentence seems to reflect the result. but it doesn't reflect the severity of what could have happened."

Engaging police in a high-speed pursuit risks the lives of the public and the police, Eiswirth said. In 1993, a Calgary police constable was killed trying to halt a speeding suspect.

"We want the public to start thinking about failing to stop for police as criminal behaviour, and right now it isn't," he said. "It's like going through a red light, or speeding."

Incidents that end in tragedy such as Sunday night's accident are difficult for police officers involved, Thomson noted.

"When they go home in the morning that's when it'll sink in. Probably every officer who gets in a situation like that is going to second-guess himself.

"We can all sit there and second-guess the actions of a police officer in a situation like that, but we're not there. We're not making the decisions."

Some Saskatoon citizens responded to the tragedy Monday night when they signed a petition at a Council of Canadians public meeting.

The petition tells police that if their vehicle is stolen, those who signed would rather not recover it than to have police pursue it.

inJusticebusters express condolences to members of the Nordholm family and the Saskatchewan communities who lost Trevor and Vern Nordholm.

Email the Saskatoon Police and tell them what you think about high speed chase!