By The Canadian Press
THOMPSON, Man. — An RCMP officer accused of manslaughter in an on-duty shooting was hurt and had trouble walking following the confrontation, his trial was told Tuesday.
Const. Abram Letkeman has pleaded not guilty to six charges, which also include criminal negligence, in the November 2015 death of Steven Campbell.
Some of the testimony so far has centred on Letkeman’s right foot.
Court has heard Letkeman was trying to pull over a Jeep driven by Campbell early one morning, shortly after the bars had closed in Thompson, Man., on suspicion that the driver was impaired.
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which investigates serious actions involving police, said at the time that the Jeep had come to a stop after a brief chase. Investigators said that when Letkeman approached the Jeep, it suddenly accelerated and struck the officer, prompting him to fire his gun.
There were four passengers with Campbell in the Jeep. Campbell’s longtime girlfriend also suffered injuries to one side of her head.
After an investigation, the unit recommended the officer be charged.
On the first day of the trial Monday, a member of the RCMP forensics team testified there were 12 shell casings found at the scene. No weapons were found in Campbell’s Jeep.
Cpl. Michael Lewis, an officer who attended the scene after the shooting, told court Tuesday that Letkeman had radioed in a message that shots had been fired. When Lewis arrived, Letkeman was hurt.
“Officer Letkeman appeared to be in distress. He was hobbling on one leg, hopping,” Lewis told the trial.
Another officer who arrived at the scene right after the shooting, Const. Greg Oke, agreed Letkeman had great difficulty walking.
Oke also appeared to contradict testimony Monday from Campbell’s girlfriend, Lori Flett, who said Campbell’s hands were not on the steering wheel when Letkeman fired his gun through the Jeep’s front windshield.
“He (was) slumped over the steering wheel, with his hands still grabbing the wheel,” Oke said Tuesday.
Flett had told the trial that she and the others in the Jeep had been out drinking that evening, and she had consumed cocaine as well.
Campbell had initially refused to pull over during the chase and at one point the police cruiser and Jeep collided, she said.
Some of Letkeman’s lawyers’ cross-examination questions focused on staffing levels at the Thompson detachment. Two of the officers testified that a full complement for a busy weekend night shift would normally see as many as 16 people on duty.
Lewis said there were roughly half that many working the night of the shooting.
“I believe there were seven, possibly eight.”
The Court of Queen’s Bench trial is scheduled to run for two weeks.
— by Steve Lambert in Winnipeg