It is among the rarest of occurrences for a police officer who kills someone, even under the most dubious of circumstances, to be charged with anything related to the killing. As documented at this site are virtually never charged, and more a range of administrative mechanisms (inquests, inquiries, oversight bodies, etc.) are mobilized to legitimize the cops’ deadly actions. So it is of some note when a killer cop is actually charged, even if the courts often dismiss the charges or find for the killers.
Manitoba RCMP Constable Abram Letkeman has been charged with manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, reckless discharge of a firearm, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and dangerous driving causing bodily harm is the shooting and killing of Steven Campbell (39), a father of two, in Thompson, Manitoba in 2015. Constable Letkeman was arrested March 1, 2017. Letkeman shot and killed Campbell following a police chase on November 21, 2015. Shots fired by the officer also hit the mother of Campbell daughter, resulting in serious injuries (Taylor 2017). There were two other passengers in the vehicle into which Letkeman fired.
The province’s Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), which examines harm done by police to civilians in Manitoba, investigated the circumstances surrounding the shooting and killing and determined that there were grounds to lay charges. The manslaughter charge is the most serious charge recommended by the IIU since it started its work in June of 2015, reinforcing the fact that police rarely face appropriate charges when they kill civilians. The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office had called an inquest into Campbell’s death in August 2016.
The family has always viewed the RCMP version of events as “ a joke” (Taylor 2017). From the perspective of Shannon Heck, Campbell’s younger sister, the manslaughter charges do not go far enough ad do not reflect the, in her view, murderous approach taken by Constable : “The officer is somebody who is supposed to be able to keep his calm and cool and for some reason or other he didn’t do that and he didn’t act appropriately. I don’t think charging him with manslaughter is appropriate” (quoted in Taylor 2017).
The RCMP claim that Steven Campbell was driving erratically when RCMP officers pulled him over. They also claim that as one officer approach the vehicle Campbell accelerated his vehicle and him. RCMP say it was only then that shots were fired. These claims have not been independently confirmed and the family says that Campbell did not accelerate and did not even hit any officer. A passenger in the vehicle says Letkeman slammed his police car into the vehicle Campbell was driving, stopping it. She also claims the officer fired nine times into the vehicle (Graham 2017). What has been confirmed is that Constable Abram Letkeman fired wildly into the vehicle hitting and killing Campbell and critically injuring his partner (Taylor 2017).
From the family’s understanding of events: “The story the RCMP was releasing, it was a joke as far as we were concerned. We knew something else had happened and we knew that the truth would come out” (Heck quoted in Taylor 2017). As Shannon Heck says, at the end of the day: “My brother will never be brought back” (quoted in Taylor 2017).
Letkeman, a seven-year veteran of the RCMP, had been deployed out of the Portage la Prairie, detachment. He has been released on bail with conditions to appear at Provincial Court in Thompson at 10 AM on March 31, 2017. He is still being paid as an officer of the RCMP as he has been since the killing in 2015.
Graham, Ian. 2017. “RCMP Officer who Shot Thompson Driver in 2015 Charged with Manslaughter.” Thompson Citizen. March 2. http://www.thompsoncitizen.net/news/thompson/rcmp-officer-who-shot-thompson-driver-in-2015-charged-with-manslaughter-1.10790535
Taylor, Jillian. 2017. “RCMP Officer Charged with Manslaughter in 2015 Thompson Shooting.” CBC News. March 2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/rcmp-officer-charged-fatal-2015-shooting-thompson-1.4006644