By The Canadian Press
THOMPSON, Man. — A Manitoba Mountie charged with manslaughter in an on-duty shooting says he thought he was going to be run over before he fired his weapon.
“That was the only thing I could do to save my own life at that point,” Const. Abram Letkeman testified at his Court of Queen’s Bench trial on Wednesday.
The officer said he shot twice into a Jeep driven by Steven Campbell in 2015. The vehicle was still moving towards him so he continued to fire, Letkeman said.
“I was shooting as fast as I could. I was fighting for my life.”
Letkeman, 37, shot Campbell, 39, at least nine times. There were two bullets lodged in the man’s body — one in his jaw and another in his shoulder. Another bullet went through his open mouth.
Court has heard 12 bullet casings were found at the scene.
There were four other people in the Jeep besides Campbell.
Crown attorney Christian Vanderhooft, saying they were against training and protocol, questioned the officer about almost every decision he made leading up to the shooting.
Letkeman testified he saw the Jeep being driven erratically shortly after bars had closed on a cool, clear November morning in Thompson, Man.
He told court that he had attempted a traffic stop for a suspected impaired driver in a parking lot, but the Jeep slowly drove away, went over a curb and continued onto a road. The officer started to pursue it.
“I believed that if I was able to bump the vehicle that it would rotate and that it would stop,” Letkeman testified.
The officer hit the Jeep and it spun around, but it drove off again, eventually ending up on a trail for all-terrain vehicles, he said.
The officer told court the Jeep came to a stop when he unintentionally T-boned the Jeep on the trail.
“The contact happened. I brought my vehicle to a stop, and I exited my vehicle in order to take a high-risk takedown,” Letkeman testified.
He said he walked in front of the Jeep to get to the driver’s door, and that’s when the vehicle moved towards him. He said his foot was run over by the front tire as he was firing his weapon.
Vanderhooft questioned the officer’s decision to continue the pursuit even though it was against usual protocols and extremely risky. The prosecutor asked why Letkeman never communicated with supervisors about ramming into the Jeep.
“You have zero training at all on whether or not you should be hitting a vehicle you are chasing in a pursuit, but you did it anyway.”
— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg