Pubdate: Wed, 27 Feb 2013
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2013 The Edmonton Journal
Authors: Jodie Sinnema And Keith Gerein


Whitecourt prisoners recaptured after brief escape

WHITECOURT - An Alberta sheriff was shot in the hand Tuesday morning
inside the town courthouse, leading to the brief escape of two
prisoners who stole the sheriffs' transport van.

Kathlene Campbell-Conlon, a radio reporter with 96.7 The Rig, was
attending docket court proceedings in the building's lone courtroom
when the shooting happened around 11:30 a.m.

Sitting directly behind the Crown lawyer and looking through her
notebook, Campbell-Conlon heard a noise from behind the prisoner door
leading into the courtroom.

"All of a sudden, you heard a kerfuffle," she said.

The sheriff, normally sitting beside the prisoner bench, leapt up.
Once he went behind the door, Campbell-Conlon, 23, heard high-pitched
screams and two or three gunshots.

"I've never heard a gunshot before," she said. "I didn't know what to

Fragments, perhaps pieces of the wall, flew into the room and
Campbell-Conlon was hit in the right knee.

She rushed out of the courtroom along with 30 to 40 other

When they got outside and were standing near the north side of the
building, Campbell-Conlon heard people screaming for 911 and medical
help. She saw a white transport van in the back parking lot, the
outline of someone in the driver's seat, then another man getting into
the passenger seat before the van took off.

"It was scary," said Campbell-Conlon, who is from Milton, Ont., near
Toronto but has been working in Whitecourt for 16 months. The
sheriff's wound is not life-threatening.

The suspects sped out of town southbound on Highway 32 but were
arrested a short time after the shooting.

Travis Fast witnessed police arrest three young men, estimated to be
in their 20s, near his father's acreage.

Fast drove by a property about eight kilometres down Highway 32,
heading south out of Whitecourt, when he noticed a white transport van
with its lights on, parked off the highway.

He didn't think much of it because he had heard the prisoners escaped
in a police car.

But when he came back, he saw two police cars blocking the driveway to
the property and officers leaning on a car, guns drawn.

"I heard a couple of shots go off," Fast said. He said he thinks the
shots came from the white van.

Soon he saw one man surrender, kneeling down before being handcuffed.
A second and third man followed.

At the courthouse, yellow police tape remained stretched across the
north side of the brick and stucco building late Tuesday, including
the back doors that lead to the parking lot. Several RCMP officers
stood guard at the building.

Whitecourt Mayor Trevor Thain said the town initiated a lockdown of
all schools and recreational facilities.

He said he thinks the prisoners were among those arrested last
Thursday in a drug bust in Whitecourt, about 180 kilometres northwest
of Edmonton.

Police said six people were taken into custody and charged after a
raid which found cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, and an
illegal firearm.

A police news release from the time of the arrest said the six were
from Whitecourt.

RCMP released no details on how the prisoners obtained a gun, though
Alberta Justice spokeswoman Michelle Davio said sheriffs carry sidearms.

She said that unlike big city courthouses, circuit courts such as
Whitecourt do not have metal detectors at entrances, though there are
other security procedures in place.
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