Pubdate: Wed, 27 Feb 2013
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2013 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Bob Weber
Page: A5


WHITECOURT, ALTA.* Three men are in custody after a backroom scuffle
in a smalltown courthouse ended with a sheriff being shot in the hand
and a short-lived escape in the officer's vehicle.

The shooting took place just before noon on Tuesday in Whitecourt,
where two local men were making their first court appearance after a
drug bust last week.

An eyewitness said the disturbance began with what sounded like a
fight in a hallway used to transport prisoners.

"You could hear behind the door where they keep prisoners to stand
trial, you could hear there was a fight happening between whomever,"
said Kathlene Campbell-Conlon, a reporter for radio station CFXW, who
was in court to cover the appearances.

"An officer who was in the court at the time hopped the guardrail and
ran behind the door," she said. "The door shut, you heard more fights,
you heard a couple of high pitched screams, then two, maybe three gunshots."

The impact of the shots, she said, knocked hangings off the wall
inside the court. The immediate reaction among those in the room was
panic. Everyone was pushing to get out and chairs were being thrown
around, said Ms. Campbell Conlon. Once outside, she said bystanders
tried to get help for the wounded officer.

"You (could) hear people saying, 'You have to call 911! We have to get
an ambulance! This officer needs medical attention!' "

Then she watched the suspects flee.

"As I walked toward the sounds of everything that's happening, I saw a
man climb into the passenger side of this sheriff 's van.

"You could hear people: 'There's a prisoner in there!' We're yelling

Then they backed out and they drove south out of Whitecourt."

Mayor Trevor Thain confirmed the prisoners escaped in the sheriff 's

Mr. Thain said the two escapees were arrested at a farmhouse about 10
kilometres south of Whitecourt.

Mr. Thain said police detained a third man at the farmhouse.

"There's a third man taken into custody, but we don't know if he's a
suspect," he said.

The sheriff, who RCMP say was part of the prisoner transport section,
was taken to hospital. Officials with the union representing the
sheriffs said he will recover.

"I am relieved to hear reports that the provincial sheriff who was
shot at work in Whitecourt will recover from his injury," said
President Guy Smith of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

Union Local 003 Chair Clarke McChesney said the officer, whose name
has not been released, will be able to return to work.

"No gunshot wound is trivial, but the outcome in this case could have
been much worse," said Mr. McChesney.

Alberta's sheriffs are armed law enforcement officers who come under
the province's Solicitor General. They support RCMP and municipal
police officers in a variety of roles, including courthouse security
and prisoner management and transportation.

Mr. Thain says the suspects were among those arrested in last week's
drug bust.

Six people were charged after that raid, which turned up cocaine,
methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as an illegal firearm.

Justice officials said the amounts of the drugs seized in the raid
were small.
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