Four people who were in the vehicle with Steven Campbell on the night the 39-year-old was shot to death by an RCMP officer in 2015 testified in a Thompson courtroom June 17.
Their testimony came on the first day of the trial of RCMP Const. Abram Letkeman, who is charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death as well as discharging a firearm causing bodily harm and operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner causing bodily harm.
Letkeman shot and killed Campbell on an ATV trail between Princeton Drive and the Vale plant road in the early morning hours of Nov. 21, 2015 following a brief car chase.
“He got shot and he died on my legs,” said Floyd Flett, who was in the passenger seat at the time Campbell was killed beside him.
Floyd Flett’s testimony came after that of his sister Lori Flett, who was Campbell’s girlfriend at the time he died and had a child with him.
“I remember getting hit on the side by a police vehicle,” said Lori Flett, who also testified that she told Campbell to stop while the police were chasing them and was later hit in the head by one of the bullets Letkeman fired, causing injuries requiring nerve and muscle grafts from her leg to counteract paralysis in her face.
Court also heard from Lori and Floyd’s brother Marty Flett, who said he didn’t see who was shooting because he grabbed Renita Richard, his girlfriend at the time and pushed her head down to protect her from getting shot.
“I could hear like a popping noise,” said Richard, who also recalled turning to the side to look while they were being chased and seeing the lights of an RCMP cruiser before it collided with the Jeep Grand Cherokee that Campbell was driving. “I don’t know why we were being shot at in the vehicle."
All four of the vehicle’s occupants testified that they had been drinking that night and that some of them had been using cocaine while celebrating Lori Flett’s birthday. They also testified that police first tried to stop Campbell on Cree Road before he drove away onto Thompson Drive and then turned right down the road by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba building and through construction gates blocking off an area where another building was being built at the time.
The trial by judge began with the Crown playing a video shot by Cpl. Craig Glover on Nov. 21-22, 2015, which showed Campbell lying across the front passenger seat with a bullet hole on the left side of his neck, an image that upset family members wearing shirts with Campbell’s photo and the slogan “Remembering Steven” on the front, causing one of them to exit the courtroom. Three bullet holes were also visible on the driver’s side of the windshield. Glover testified that a search using a metal detector in the area around the RCMP cruiser and the Jeep, which were about four car lengths apart on the trail, turned up 12 shell casings and one bullet. Another bullet was recovered from the steering wheel of the Jeep and a partial bullet fragment from the console between the driver and front passenger seats.
Thompson RCMP forensic identification officer Sgt. Hollie Maffenbeier, who was a corporal at the time of Campbell’s shooting, testified that the Independent Investigations Unit of Manitoba (IIU), which investigates serious incidents involving on- and off-duty police officers in the province, asked her to examine the boots that Letkeman had been wearing on the night of the shooting for evidence of tire tracks in January 2016.
“There was no evidence of tire tracks on them,” she testified, though during cross-examination she said that didn’t mean that they definitely hadn’t come into contact with a tire. She also testified about finding a plastic bag with white powder in it under the emergency brake.
“It was packaged in a way that would be consistent with some sort of illicit drug,” said Maffenbeier, though she did not know what it was or if it had been tested.
Another forensic identification services member working in Thompson in 2015, Darren Martin, testified that he took photos of Letkeman’s foot shortly after the shooting.
“There was no external injury I could see that was obvious,” said Martin, who did not do any further investigation of the shooting because he and Letkeman had worked together at times when Martin was a patrol member and he felt that there might be a perception of bias.
The Crown is expected to conclude its case against Letkeman June 25 following testimony from a use of force expert. The trial is expected to conclude June 27 or June 28 though a verdict will not come until sometime later in the summer.