Thompson RCMP officers who responded to the scene after Const. Abram Letkeman shot and killed Steven Campbell Nov. 21, 2015 took the stand at the manslaughter trial of their fellow officer in Thompson June 18.
Derek Dunford, Greg Oke and Michael Lewis gave their testimony before the lunch break followed by Tegan Canada, Kevin Lewis and Shona Frizzley in the afternoon.
Letkeman is also charged with criminal negligence, firearms offences and charges of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Dunford, who had about five years of service as an RCMP officer before being posted to Thompson for about four years beginning in 2013, said he and Oke were lodging prisoners in cells at the detachment when Micheal Lewis told them they should go provide assistance to Letkeman.
“The gist of it was that Letkeman had maybe found an impaired driver,” said Dunford. “I thought it was just a regular run of the mill impaired.”
Dunford said Oke drove up Cree Road and down Thompson Drive towards Mystery Lake Road and that he didn’t see Letkeman’s patrol car or the vehicle he was pursuing until they were close to Mystery Lake Road.
“I could see the glow of his lights at some point when he was turning on Princeton Drive,” Dunford said, later saying that he didn’t think it was going to be an out of the ordinary call until they had turned right at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba building and driven past the construction barricade that Campbell and Letkeman had driven through and heard Letkeman say “shots fired,” at which point Oke told him to take his gun out. Dunford said Letkeman was beside his vehicle and “leaning on it in obvious pain.”
“We got out of our vehicle. We quickly checked in with Abe who was in pain,” Dunford testified. Dunford reached in the through the broken driver’s side window and shook Campbell.
“That’s when I realized he had died,” Dunford said. “I was able to see his eyes.”
Dunford described Letkeman as a friend and said the incident rattled him.
“I felt guilty and still do that we weren’t there to help fast enough.”
Oke’s account of what happened after he and Dunford arrived at the scene of Campbell’s shooting was slightly different. Oke had been an RCMP officer for less than a year at the time and Thompson was his first posting. He said he recalled that they were responding to a call of an impaired driver who wasn’t pulling over and that Letkeman was standing in front of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Campbell had been driving when he and Dunford arrived, holding his gun in his hand.
"I believe it was unholstered,” said Oke, who took up a position at the rear of the Jeep, the tailgate of which was open, to monitor the situation with his service weapon drawn while Dunford got the passengers out of the car. Oke said Campbell was slumped over the steering wheel with his hands still on it, before slumping over to the right towards the passenger seat. He also said under cross-examination that Letkeman “was limping badly.”
Michael Lewis arrived after Dunford and Oke and said Letkeman was closer to the front of the Jeep and that there were two males already on the ground facedown beside it.
“I saw Const. Letkeman straight ahead, more toward the front of the vehicle but back more towards my position,” said Lewis, who had taken a carbine rifle out of a rack in his cruiser before exiting his vehicle. “My initial thought is that I was walking into an active shooter situation.”
Michael Lewis said Letkeman appeared to be in distress and was hopping on one leg. He helped him walk 20 or 25 feet back to one of the vehicles and then drove him to the hospital. When Letkeman was told, incorrectly as it later turned out, that Lori Flett did not appear to be injured, Michael Lewis said he appeared relieved.
Canada said she was en route to assist Letkeman when she heard on the radio that shots had been fired and arrived on the scene seconds later. She handcuffed one of the people who was one the ground beside the Jeep and then left to escort Lori Flett to Thompson General Hospital, where she remained with her. Canada said Letkeman was limping when she arrived at the scene and that she saw him later at the hospital in one of the rooms at the ER. Defence lawyer Joshua Weinstein said that in a December 2015 interview with the Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), which investigates serious incidents involving on- and off-duty police officers in Manitoba, Canada said that Letkeman was in a wheelchair. She said she could no longer recall that detail.
Kevin Lewis, who was a staff sergeant at the time of Campbell’s shooting, said he was notified of the incident around 2 a.m. and attended the scene where he spoke to Letkeman, whose demeanour was similar to other officers involved in shootings that he has seen, trying to contain his emotions and not show that he was upset.
The last witness of the day was Shona Frizzley, who was a corporal supervising one of two watches on duty for the night shift of Nov. 20-21, 2015. She had been at the detachment at the time the pursuit began and was permitted to review the recording of the radio transmissions made during the pursuit, during which Letkeman could be heard saying that two people had been shot and that the driver of the vehicle he had been chasing had run over his foot. Frizzley eventually left the detachment to attend the scene and saw Michael Lewis trying to carry Letkeman when she arrived.
Letkeman’s trial resumes June 19 with scheduled witness included a pathologist and an RCMP traffic reconstructionist.
- with files from Kyle Darbyson