RCMP justified in ‘harrowing’ shootout that killed murder suspect: watchdog

RCMP justified in ‘harrowing’ shootout that killed murder suspect: watchdog

CALGARY — Alberta’s police watchdog says it was necessary for RCMP officers to use lethal force against a suspect in the brutal slaying of a woman two years ago.

Nadia El-Dib, 22, was found dead behind a Calgary home on March 25, 2018. City police accused a former boyfriend of stabbing her 40 times, slashing her throat and shooting her.

Four days later, Adam Bettahar, 21, was killed in a shootout with Mounties west of Edmonton. Two officers were injured.

“It would be fair to describe this event as harrowing,” the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said in a report released Thursday. “It is a shocking example of the risks police can face at any time.”

Calgary police issued a warrant for Bettahar’s arrest on a charge of first-degree murder. On March 29, 2018, they advised the RCMP that the suspect was believed to be driving a blue Ford SUV west of Edmonton and had a semi-automatic rifle.

Bettahar evaded four separate police attempts to stop him with spike belts during a pursuit that lasted more than an hour and covered 140 kilometres.

A fifth spike belt damaged the SUV’s tires and the vehicle eventually stopped on Highway 16.

ASIRT said civilian witnesses described seeing Bettahar get out of the vehicle and point a rifle or “machine gun” at police “like he knew what he was doing.”

ASIRT said Bettahar fired at an officer, whose head was grazed by a bullet. At the time it was clear the officer had been shot, but the extent of the injury was unknown.

Eleven Mounties shot back and a two-minute firefight ensued. Witnesses described seeing Bettahar reloading his firearm behind his SUV.

The first injured officer received stitches, suffered a concussion and remained in hospital as a precaution. A second officer had several cuts and bruises on his neck and arm, believed to be from shrapnel.

“The relatively minor nature of the officers’ injuries was a reflection of good fortune rather than a lack of intent on the part of the man,” the investigative unit said. “There can be no doubt that he had been firing on police with the intent to kill or seriously injure as many officers as possible.”

ASIRT said it’s believed the suspect fired 10 rounds and police fired 202.

An autopsy confirmed Bettahar died of multiple gunshot wounds.

ASIRT said there are no reasonable grounds to believe any of the officers involved committed an offence, so no one will be charged.

“While the loss of life is never the desired outcome, the man placed the officers in a situation where lethal force was necessary,” it said.

“Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of a situation that would be a better example of the necessity for the use of lethal force. The man was an active shooter, using lethal force and was deliberately trying to kill others.

“He needed to be stopped before he succeeded.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2020

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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