A Strathmore man and Alberta RCMP are each sharing their side of the story after an intense encounter with guns drawn on July 7.
Police responded to a weapons call at David DeWolfe’s farm at 7:45 p.m., saying they received a complaint that a man was firing shots at a neighbour.
DeWolfe said his friends had been shooting gophers with .22 long rifles 200 yards behind his house with when several officers stormed his property, phoning him and telling him and his wife to come out with their hands up.
“I was in shock. My initial response was, ‘No way, are you serious?’ I told [officers] I haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.
“The house was surrounded. There were guns everywhere.”
That’s when DeWolfe pulled out his phone and started livestreaming as he laid on the ground.
“They were screaming at us. They were yelling, ‘Get on the ground.’ They were swearing and cussing. So immediately, we got on the ground,” DeWolfe said.
“My wife was freaking out. They had several guns pointed at the house and my kids are inside the house. Our biggest concern is that somebody would accidentally pull the trigger and something would happen.”
A ‘safe, high-risk arrest’
RCMP stand by how they conducted a “safe, high-risk arrest,” given the dangers of the situation.
Cpl. Laurel Scott said officers had to deal with the information they were given as they tried to determine what was going on.
“This is the information that we received as we’re en route, that shots had been fired,” she said. “The homeowner is afraid and there’s been a gun pointed in that direction.
“That makes this a very high-risk situation for the RCMP.”
At one point, DeWolfe said officers demanded his two kids — a two-year-old and a four-year-old — come out of the house. DeWolfe said his brother was also inside.
In addition to himself, DeWolfe said his brother and his two friends were arrested.
One of those friends was Cam Cunningham. He said the experience looked like a war movie.
“It was really tense. They came there to start a fight,” he said. “There was no calming. They weren’t trying to ease the situation. They had the gunmen — we were the potential threat and they had us and they were still playing army man.”
Scott said officers responded and drew their weapons.
“They made the arrest and they had to do it in a manner to ensure that there were no firearms involved and that everybody was safe in making this arrest,” she said.
The police managed the situation appropriately and took every precaution when responding to the weapons complaint, she said.
“We were dealing with a situation where we were not certain who had a firearm,” Scott added. “We believed several people had firearms. Shots had been fired on the property. That was the information that we had and that was the information we needed to sort out and we needed to be sure everybody was safe in our response — that would be us, any neighbours or people in the periphery of the incident, including the people that were arrested.”
“It was all so uncalled for,” Cunningham said. “They came in looking for a fight. They were not trying to resolve a conflict. They were trying to start a conflict.
“I was sworn at. I was called names. I was made to lie in cow shit. I didn’t do anything. I was co-operating. I don’t have a lot of faith in the Strathmore RCMP right now.”
Cunningham said police were unorganized during the “nerve-wracking” situation.
“They didn’t have a clue what they were doing. They didn’t even know we were there. They were so surprised, they weren’t ready to deal with us.
“I thought I was going to walk up to that officer and explain myself and everyone was going to go home and say, ‘Whew, that was crazy.’ I didn’t expect to go to jail.”
‘I hope I can sleep soon’
No one was injured during the arrest, but that doesn’t include the emotional trauma that DeWolfe said his family experienced.
DeWolfe said he can appreciate the officers’ stress levels, however, he believes the police went too far by involving his children. He said he hopes his family isn’t too traumatized to move on with their lives.
“I’m very worried this is going to be my kids’ first memory and I’m scared they’re never going to be able to get over this. I can kind of push it in the back — I think, I don’t know if I can,” he said. “I hope I can sleep soon. I hope my wife can sleep soon.”
RCMP said they “contained” the people involved. It ended with provincial wildlife charges against the two men shooting gophers.
One of DeWolfe’s two videos has exploded online since he posted them.
Scott said people have their own opinions of the video and that’s the nature of social media.
“Nobody reviewing this video from the outside on social media was actually on scene in the police officers’ shoes, dealing with this situation,” she said.
“So the view of this situation is very different from the responding members.”
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