WARNING: This story contains graphic content. Discretion is advised.
Alberta’s police watchdog has cleared officers of any wrongdoing in the 2018 shooting death of a Calgary man accused in the violent death of his ex-girlfriend.
Police had issued a Canada-wide warrant for 21-year-old Adam Bettahar following the murder of Nadia El-Dib, who was found dead in the backyard of a Marlborough Park home on March 25, 2018.
Police said the 22-year-old had been stabbed dozens of times and shot twice.
According to a Thursday news release from the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), an investigation by Calgary police determined Bettahar was in the west-central Alberta hamlet of Evansburg. He was believed to be armed with a CSA VZ.58 semi-automatic rifle and driving a dark blue 2004 Ford Explorer.
“The man had made statements to the effect that he would ‘not go down without a fight,’” ASIRT said. “This information was shared with RCMP officers in the detachments west of Edmonton.”
On March 29, an off-duty RCMP officer heading home from his shift encountered the accused’s vehicle and began following it.
“Efforts to conduct a traffic stop of the vehicle were not successful and at 5:17 p.m., a police pursuit ensued,” ASIRT stated.
The pursuit continued for about 70 minutes and covered approximately 140 kilometres. As it continued, ASIRT said additional officers and police vehicles joined in.
ASIRT said Bettahar “successfully evaded” four separate attempts to deploy spike belts.
A fifth spike belt, placed on Highway 16 eastbound at Range Road 112, damaged the vehicle’s tires, but Bettahar continued driving until his vehicle became inoperable and stopped just east of Range Road 83, in the eastbound lanes of Highway 16.
ASIRT said it was as his vehicle came to a stop that Bettahar began firing at police.
“Witnesses travelling in the westbound lanes of Highway 16 reported seeing the man exit his vehicle with what was described as a rifle or machine gun, and immediately drop to one knee to take a firing stance, pointing at police,” ASIRT stated.
One of the RCMP officers was shot and began “bleeding profusely” with a head injury, according to ASIRT.
Eleven officers returned fire, firing multiple rounds from assorted duty firearms.
“It was difficult for the officers to assess whether they had disabled the man, as he was behind the vehicle and hard to see,” ASIRT reported. “What followed was an exchange of gunfire between RCMP officers and the man that lasted for about two minutes”
During the firefight, ASIRT says witness accounts suggest Bettahar reloaded his firearm as he sheltered behind his disabled vehicle.
One minute and 12 seconds after the start of the gunfire, one of the officers directed the others to stop firing.
“One last shot was fired, when an officer perceived movement,” ASIRT said.
During the gunfight, the injured officer was able to crawl towards the back of his police vehicle and was pulled to safety.
ASIRT said Bettahar fired 10 rounds, while a total of 202 police rounds are believed to have been fired.
“The injured officer suffered what would turn out, miraculously, to be only a grazing wound across the top of his head, leaving his skull intact, with shrapnel in his scalp and a concussion,” ASIRT said.
According to ASIRT, he received stitches and remained in hospital for a number of days as a precautionary measure.
ASIRT said there was “no doubt” that Bettahar had been firing on police with the “intent to kill or seriously injure as many officers as possible.”
Bettahar died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to an autopsy. A toxicology report determined he no drugs nor alcohol in his system at the time of his death.
The CSA VZ.58 semi-automatic rifle, which was the weapon believed to have been used in the murder of El-Dib, was recovered on scene.
ASIRT said there is “no question” that all officers involved were “acting in the lawful execution of their duties.”
“It would be fair to describe this event as harrowing. It is a shocking example of the risks police can face at any time.”
“Having reviewed the investigation in its entirety, there are no reasonable grounds, nor reasonable suspicion, to believe any of the involved officers committed any offences. As such, the officers will not be charged with any offences arising out of this incident,” ASIRT said.
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