Parents of woman shot dead by Edmonton police doing welfare check question procedures

‘I see my daughter’s death as being a result of a complete mishandling of the tools available to law enforcement in the application of dealing with mental health issues’

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Parents of a woman fatally shot Wednesday by Edmonton police doing a welfare check are questioning procedures that led to her shocking death, says a city criminal defence lawyer.

The woman’s family on Saturday issued a statement through Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel, saying they believe the Wednesday morning wellness check by police “ended up being a crime scene,” because the approach by officers was not “gradual and of a gentle nature.”

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Edmonton police said in a news release on Thursday that officers were called for the welfare check around 10:37 a.m. on Wednesday at an apartment in the area of 18 Avenue and 32 Street.

When officers arrived, they made call-outs at the door, but nobody answered so they proceeded as if there were imminent risk of self-harm and entered the suite to ensure the woman’s health and safety.

The woman’s parents believe that had their daughter “fully understood the nature of the visit,” the situation would have not escalated with the deadly outcome.

“Therefore, the issue is in the way the approach was handled — which would have created an understanding of support, rather than one of fear,” they said.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), now investigating, in a Friday news release said after a confrontation with the woman, police deployed a conducted energy weapon and discharged a firearm, fatally wounding her. She died at the scene. ASIRT also released a photo of a pellet gun that Edmonton police say was seized from the scene.

The woman’s family said they cannot understand how a Taser was deployed and then their loved one fatally shot.

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“This is my primary concern here, in that a wellness check involves a specific approach and makes considerations of the person being dealt with — instead of creating a confrontative situation that creates fear and confusion.

“I see my daughter’s death as being a result of a complete mishandling of the tools available to law enforcement in the application of dealing with mental health issues. She had every intention of helping herself and being with her son that day.”

The Wednesday killing was the second fatal Edmonton police shooting in days.

Edmonton-West Henday NDP MLA Brooks Arcand-Paul identified that north Edmonton police shooting victim as his cousin, Katlin Arcand. Arcand was shot last Sunday after a Taser was deployed during what ASIRT described as an “altercation” with police. ASIRT said officers were initially called about a man brandishing a knife.

Arcand-Paul said family will likely hold a news conference after his cousin’s funeral next week. According to the Indigenous Arts Collective of Canada, Arcand was a multi-medium artist who worked primarily as a stone carver. He was from Alexander First Nation and in a profile describing his art said he suffered from mental illness.

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‘All those answers will come’: police chief

Police Chief Dale McFee, speaking to reporters at an unrelated event Sunday, declined to say whether the Police and Crisis Response Team (PACT), which includes mental health professionals trained to respond to such calls, was called on Wednesday while ASIRT investigates the shooting.

“These are really tough calls on our people, and first and foremost, let’s let the process unfold — all those answers will come,” he said, noting the importance of ASIRT’s independence.

While McFee said Edmonton police strive to share information in a timely way, Engel told Postmedia he found it “disconcerting” that the ASIRT and Edmonton Police news releases’ appeared so similar, while both failing to offer important information, including where the pellet gun was when the woman was shot, or whether the use of the Taser was effective or not.

“They are both worded to create the impression that the police did nothing wrong, and I’m very concerned about ASIRT doing that, and I’m also concerned about the EPS doing it,” said Engel.

When asked about the procedures for non-fatal tools to be used by police during mental health calls, including rubber bullets or a K-9 unit, McFee said every situation has its own individual circumstances, and emphasized the importance of waiting for the facts to be investigated.

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“We get a lot of people that go out to the media thinking that they’re experts and guessing, and they have no idea what’s happened because I haven’t even seen all the details. In fairness to everybody involved, it’s not appropriate to comment on any of that at this time,” he said.

Following an increase in provincial funding, PACT is being expanded to 18 members from six members.

“Teams are the way to approach a lot of these difficult situations. When it’s dangerous, you lead with the person with the right, appropriate response, and when it’s not you lead with the secondary response. So, regardless of these situations, we’re going to continue to build those out,” McFee said.

— With files from Toula Mazloum

[email protected]

Chief Dale McFee with the Edmonton Police Service prepares to solve the case of Santa's kidnapping at West Edmonton Mall in an event held in partnership with families from the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023.
Chief Dale McFee with the Edmonton Police Service prepares to solve the case of Santa’s kidnapping at West Edmonton Mall in an event held in partnership with families from the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

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