Seven bullets, many questions left


Investigations by provincial police supervisors cleared three RCMP officers in a fatal 2017 shooting revealed dramatic details of a terrible night, when a prisoner defeated a police escort on the side of a rural highway and led a wild chase with a stolen van, before he was finally killed.

From an officer who fired his gun when fighting prisoners in a snowy ditch, to witnessing officers worried that the man would drop them, until the tactical team officer repeatedly shouted at him to show his hand before deciding they had no other choice, IIU released a report Friday break the last escape and fight.

Bill Saunders


Bill Saunders

IIU sent a complete investigation file on November 15, 2017, shooting police at 18-year-old Bill Saunders from Eriksdale to Manitoba Prosecutor's Service.

They recommended that there were no charges against the three officers – none of which were mentioned in the 12-page report – which fired their weapons that night.

A spokesman for the prosecutor said when the issue was sent to Crown's lawyer, the final decision was based solely on evidence. "At all points in the prosecution – including a preliminary review of potential allegations – the Crown was asked to assess the reasonable possibility of punishment and whether it was in the public interest to continue," he said.

RCMP declined to comment on Friday.

Scene in the ditch

The incident began on November 14, 2017 at 8:48 a.m., when an RCMP officer driving Saunders to Winnipeg from the Lundar detachment agreed to the man's request to pull over to the side of Highway 6, near Woodlands, so he could defecate himself.

Saunders was arrested, accused of robbing video lottery terminal workers on Manitoba First Nation Lake, 170 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg.

The officer released Saunders' handcuffs, leaving his legs shackled. When the young man got off the van, he attacked the officer from behind. The couple wrestled in the ditch, traded blows and gouged their eyes, until the officer dropped his wand. Saunders took it and started hitting the officer's head while trying to strangle him from behind.

RCMP officer at the recording location on Highway 6.


RCMP officer at the recording location on Highway 6.

The officer took out his gun and fired his shoulder at Saunders. The couple fell to the ground, struggling to control weapons.

"(Saunders) is very strong and continues to force my gun away from the center of its mass when I constantly force my gun, with all my might, towards the center of the mass and pull the trigger," the officer said in a written statement given to IIU.

"I don't know how many times I fired my gun from this position, but I'm sure I fired more than once."

The IIU report said nine shots were released in the trench before the gun jammed.

Saunders stopped, making the officer sure that one of the bullets had found his target. The clerk moved towards his radio, which was on the ground. Saunders then continued the attack, and finally managed to snatch the gun.

Nine minutes after the fight began, Saunders asked if the key was still in the van. They were told, he jumped and drove north on the highway.

Scene at home

A large police operation was launched, with the RCMP looking for Saunders, while another went to his parents' house in Eriksdale, 140 km northwest of Winnipeg.

Ms. Saunders, Irene, told me Media freedom when his son stumbles, he still wears shackles.

"I asked how he arrived here and he said he stole a vehicle and he took some things," he said. "He said the police had killed him for 20 years. He said he would call me when he could."

Saunders' sister, Diane, said at the time: "He was covered in blood … there was so much blood, he was dripping water. He could not move his left arm."

According to the IIU report, an officer who went home heard from a relative that the wounded had arrived around 10pm, threw some items into a woolen bag, and left saying that the police had shot him and they "had it for 20 years for the massacre . "

The officer, realizing Saunders mistakenly believed that he had killed the officer in the trench, and saw the house had "large numbers of firearms, safes, and ammunition," thought the man had armed himself.

The last scene

Shortly before midnight, an officer who was alone on a cruiser saw a stolen car on Batang 68 Highway, near Lake Manitoba First Nation.

After a high-speed chase through the community, Saunders lost control of the van and was finally trapped in a ditch along Provincial Road 417.

Three officers did not approve the interview

The officer called by radio that he could fire a tire behind his van in an attempt to knock him out, but an RCMP commander told officers to wait for the tactical team and police dogs on the way.

They arrived a few hours later, and at 2:23 in the morning, five heavily armed officers advanced with the van, which was moved back and forth, in an attempt to get out of the ditch. The officers repeatedly shouted at Saunders, whose driver's side window fell several centimeters, to turn off the van and "Let me see your hand." The man did not respond.

Half an hour later, when one of them moved in front of the van, two RCMP officers opened fire on Saunders when the man stepped on the gas and reported his right hand down to his side.

One of the two officers explained to IIU in a written statement he knew earlier that night "that bullets from weapons (RCMP officers) were injured (Saunders)."

"I know that (Saunders) will continue his actions when injured and without giving up, that he is a goal-oriented individual who will continue to fight the police until he is arrested. I know (Saunders) disobey the police orders given to him while having several carbine guns which is being directed at him by ERT officers … I know (Saunders) has a recent history of weapons violations and recent violations of violence. I am also aware that (Saunders) have been covered with pepper spray with pregnant women and not has a limit to the level of violence so he, obviously, is willing to accuse anyone at any time, "said the statement.

"I believe Saunders at this point is to try to kill other police officers. I turned off the safety of my carbine and started firing torso (Saunders & # 39;) to prevent (Saunders) killing a policeman."

Download the final report

Autopsy showed Saunders died of "several gunshot wounds." Seven bullets hit him.

After report

The Saunders said IIU representatives came to their homes on Thursday to check reports before they were released to the public.

During a brief Friday phone call with a man who identified himself as husband of Irene Saunders (Bill's mother), when asked about what he thought about the conclusion of the IIU report, he said before closing the phone: "That's because they f-lied, king – bastard king's killer. "

Saunders' sister, Rebecca, later admitted the family was still emotional about the incident and still had many questions.

"That is the result we expected," he said. "That is what it is.

"We have to wait until the examination to ask the questions we have … You heard about 10 hours of disputes in Winnipeg and they gave him 10 minutes? I felt there were more choices they could make."

He said he did not know why his brother attacked the first officer, especially when the charges he faced would be canceled. He said the RCMP had a video showing other men – not his brothers – robbing VLT workers.

"He can stop; he can control the situation. He can urinate, go back, and go to court. He can still live," said his sister. "In the end, we are all responsible for our actions.

"Will we ever close? I don't know."

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Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more flexible journalists in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Whether it includes city halls, legal courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be relied upon not only to answer 5 W – Who, What, When, Where and Why – but to do it in an interesting and easily accessible way for readers.

Read the full biography


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