By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Two local RCMP detachments are urging landowners to not engage a suspect if they suspect someone if trying to steal something from their property.
During Lethbridge County council’s regular March 1 meeting, staff sergeants from the two RCMP detachments appeared as a delegation.
During the meeting, county Reeve Lorne Hickey remarked it was “kind of unfortunate to see” the incident that had happened near Okotoks, where a rural homeowner is being charged after shots fired on his property wounded a suspected thief.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 24, police were called to a home outside of Okotoks in response to shots fired after the homeowner, Edouard Maurice, saw someone going through some vehicles on the property.
Two people fled, but one was later found with injury to his arm. The suspected thief, Ryan Watson, was arrested upon being discharged from the hospital and has been charged with trespassing, mischief to property, theft under $5,000, possession of methamphetamine and two counts of failure to comply with probation. A second man is being sort by police, and no charges have been proven in court.
This comes on the heels of the Gerald Stanley trial, in which the Saskatchewan farmer was acquitted in the second-degree murder trial for the shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie, a Cree man from Red Pheasant First Nation.
The cases have stirred frustrations by rural home-owners over whether they have the right to defend their property. Amid a
Staff sgt. Thomas Howell of the Picture Butte RCMP cautioned that they had to “keep everything in perspective here”, when it comes to the matter of protecting property, and warned against homeowners taking the matter into their own hands
“Protecting property is not protecting life. We engage in protecting life over property as the police. Not saying that it’s not a priority, but it’s not the same priority as protecting life,” said Howell. “When we talk to our citizens in the rural area, and they feel they need to utilize firearms to protect their property, they have to keep in their mind that taking a life is far more serious then protecting property.
“Some people may disagree with that, it’s my property, I should be able to protect it, but in my years in the policy service, I don’t find that really holds well at the end. So we encourage our citizens to continue to report crime. Yes, protecting your family, they’d understand. But understand taking that to another level seems far worse. So as the police, we’re the ones trained to deal with these offenders, we will continue to attended your calls to service as quickly as we can, but my perspective, the issue of utilizing firearms to protect your property in rural areas is a troubling one.”
Hickey agreed with Howell’s view, noting material things are replaceable, but “your family is not” and you have to think of them.
Staff sgt. Glenn Henry of the Coaldale RCMP said that bringing weapons into a situation will likely escalate it, and it can be used against you as well.
“If there’s someone stealing gas from your property and you show up with a gun, you brought a firearm into the equation. Maybe that firearm will be taken away from you and used elsewhere, against yourself or your family,” said Henry.
“We’re asking not to intervene, not to, sort of engage people at a distance, be the eyes and ears for the police. Let them go, make sure no one gets hurt. We’ll get there, we’ll deal with it, we’ll do our best.”
“Material things are material things,” said Hickey. “Life is life.”