The sister of a man shot and killed by a Thompson RCMP member after a brief police pursuit in November 2015 said the three years of probation that former police officer Abram Letkeman received was far too light of a sentence.
“The justice system has failed my brother,” Steven Campbell’s sister Shannon Heck told the Thompson Citizen. “He should have received way harsher consequences for his disregard of protocol. The pain and grief he has caused so many could have been avoided.”
Letkeman received the probation, a 12-month driving prohibition, 240 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine from Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin at a sentencing hearing Jan. 17 in Thompson. He was found guilty of criminal negligence causing bodily harm but not guilty of manslaughter in the death of 39-year-old Steven Campbell following his June 2019 trial.
In his August 2019 verdict, Martin said Letkeman twice intentionally hit the Jeep Campbell was driving with his police cruiser, first at the intersection of Caribou Road and Deerwood Drive and then again on a Manitoba Hydro right-of-way used as an ATV trail at the south end of Princeton Drive. That impact to the side of the Jeep resulted in Campbell’s girlfriend Lori Flett suffering a broken pelvis and injuring her neck. She was also hit by a bullet fragment a few moments later when Letkeman, fearing that Campbell would run him over, shot the 39-year-old man at least nine times. Martin said when pronouncing his verdict that Letkeman had made a series of blunders during the pursuit of Campbell, which began because Letkeman suspected he was driving impaired, though ultimately the shooting was justified because Letkeman was legitimately in danger of being killed or seriously wounded.
“I do not believe his story of fearing for his life that night,” Heck said. “With the training officers receive to uphold the law, he acted with absolute disregard for human life and the job he was supposed to be doing. Shooting someone nine times at close range demonstrates his lack of conscience and moral integrity. He is a despicable excuse for a human being who used his authority to carry a weapon in the most disgusting way imaginable.”
Following the shooting, Letkeman transferred to the Portage La Prairie RCMP detachment before being suspended when criminal charges were laid. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and his RCMP career, which began in 2010, ended when he received a medical discharge, though his conviction would have resulted in termination regardless.
“We are all devastated by the verdict and sentencing,” Heck said. “The only possible relief in the outcome is that [Letkeman] is no longer an RCMP officer and cannot wear a badge to serve and protect."
Letkeman addressed Campbell's family members and Flett during his January sentencing hearing.
“I deeply regret what happened,” he said. “I do not think for a moment that I understand your pain.”
“He commented that he grieves for my brother and I’d like to tell him that he does not deserve that privilege,” Heck said. “Grief is a reminder that love was present, and even if it’s no longer in its original form, that love still exists.The feeling he feels is guilt, not grief. We honour our love for Steve’s memory by grieving our tragic loss. He needs to find solace elsewhere to clear his conscience. Regardless of what was said about my brother he was not a bad person. Abram Letkeman is. I will never ever forgive him for shooting my brother and killing him.”