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Neighbours 'were in jeopardy'
RCMP acknowledge other lives were put at risk during police shooting of suicidal woman

Daniel Campbell
Northern News Services
Published Friday, July 5, 2013

Yellowknife RCMP acknowledged Thursday residents were at risk last year when police officers inadvertently fired five bullets into a neighbouring home while shooting at a suicidal woman who was running at them with an unloaded rifle.

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RCMP Chief Supt. Wade Blake addressea members of the media following the Yellowknife RCMP's review of recommendations made by a coroner's jury into the shooting death of Karen Lander by Yellowknife officers last year. - Daniel Campbell/NNSL photo

The admission was made during a press conference held four months after a Medicine Hat Police Services officer, called in to investigate the shooting, severely criticized the Yellowknife RCMP detachment for not going door-to-door after responding to a report of an armed standoff on Glick Court on March 14, 2012.

Police would eventually gun down 42-year-old Karen Lander after negotiations failed and she left the home brandishing a rifle. The occupants of the neighbouring house in the cul-de-sac were at home watching the evening news when their house was also struck by bullets, some of which went crashing through the living room and kitchen.

It's one of those issues that did not get addressed (by a coroner's jury into Lander's death). Since that time it's been reinforced with the commanders," said G Division Chief Supt. Wade Blake.

"Clearly a home did get hit and clearly people from that home were in jeopardy. The policy is there so the option is enforcing and reinforcing it."

On the day of the shooting, RCMP called nearby residents by phone to ask them to evacuate during the armed standoff but neglected to check homes door-to-door.

Blake said his detachment reviewed its policy surrounding the shooting. He admitted officers need to go door-to-door to evacuate nearby homes in situations where residents are at risk.

Lander was shot four times by three RCMP officers after a four-hour standoff when she exited a Glick Court home, holding a long-barrelled rifle.

In conversations with RCMP negotiator Const. Todd Scaplen on the day of the shooting, Lander said she wanted police to open fire on her.

"The RCMP would like to express its condolences to the family and to the friends of Karen Lander," Blake said yesterday, "It affects us all deeply."

"Members were presented with lethal force and their response was to return with lethal force."

In yesterday's press conference, open only to members of the media, Blake said two of the six recommendations made by a coroner's jury assembled to hear evidence into Lander's death required a modification of existing division policy, meaning Yellowknife RCMP failed to follow policy during the March 14, 2012 standoff.

However, Blake wouldn't directly say the RCMP made mistakes that day.

"Four (of the recommendations) we already had in policy and the (coroner's) jury was trying to reinforce the position that we be vigilant with those types of policies," Blake said of the recommendations.

Yellowknife RCMP altered policy to ensure emergency response team members are trained in non-lethal equipment, such as batons, pepper spray and beanbag guns. Officers must also carry such equipment on all deployments, said Blake.

The detachment also changed policy to ensure any person in its custody who might be suicidal be delivered to a medical practitioner as soon as possible, and for the delivering officer to provide all relevant information to the receiving doctor.

The coroner's jury also asked that police contact mental health specialists in cases involving suicides and to ensure, when dealing with suicidal people, their family members are contacted.

Blake explained RCMP had made phone calls to various people during the incident but only managed to contact some friends of Lander.

Blake said his division will continue to review policy and training to better serve the public, but said only six of the recommendations made by the jury were directed at the RCMP, out of 16.

"This is a community issue, if there was one thing that could be done better it's perhaps the way the community addresses mental health issues."

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