Saskatoon’s police chief says early findings from the coroner indicate a man who died after crashing a stolen truck was killed by the collision and not gunshots fired by police minutes earlier.

Chief Clive Weighill told media Tuesday police believe the 22-year-old man — identified by his mother as Austin Eaglechief — died Monday evening after crashing the stolen truck, at a speed up to 150 kilometres per hour, into a civilian vehicle at Airport Drive and Circle Drive.

Police don’t believe two gunshots fired moments prior, as the truck rammed into a police cruiser at a cul-de-sac before fleeing, hit the suspect, he said.

“We don’t believe the suspect was struck by the gun fire, but that will be confirmed when the autopsy is completed,” Weighill said. “A visual at the scene did not show any gunshot wounds.”

Officers first spotted the stolen truck at 3:45 a.m. Monday, but called off a pursuit right away, according to Weighill.

The vehicle was spotted several other times during the day, but police did not attempt to pull over the truck until about 7:50 p.m., shortly after officers saw the truck at 33rd Street and Avenue D North.

A police plane got a visual on the truck and tracked the vehicle to Clearwater Place in Saskatoon’s River Heights neighbourhood, where a few people exited the vehicle, Weighill said.

“At that time, the air unit radioed to our ground units that it was probably an opportune time, because the vehicle was in a cul-de-sac, to move into the cul-de-sac and box the vehicle in,” he told media.

Police then entered Clearwater Place, at which point two men ran back into the vehicle and a female — her age is not yet clear — fled the scene.

The truck then backed into a police cruiser, injuring one officer.

“The suspect vehicle backed up at a high rate of speed and collided with one our patrol cars, trapping one of our female officers in the patrol car,” Weighill said.

Gunshots were fired by police at some point. Weighill said police so far believe two shots were fired.

The officer in the struck police car was taken to hospital with injuries to her neck and head. She’s since been released, and her injuries are not considered life-threatening.

The truck fled.

“It certainly could have been much worse — specifically when the vehicle rammed the police car,” the police chief said. “It pushed it about 100 feet, right off the cul-de-sac, into a driveway.”

Air unit officers followed the truck and patrol cars again attempted to stop the vehicle — this time near Circle Drive and Idywyld Drive — but, within moments, the truck hit the civilian vehicle. The civilian vehicle was turning left off Circle Drive and onto Airport Drive.

Eaglechief, who was known to police, died on scene. His mother, Agatha Eaglechief, told CTV News she was shocked by the entire incident.

“I am so appalled by the situation — why did the cops have to shoot in a small corridor and why my son reacted the way he did and then the high speed chase,” she said, standing on the steps of the Saskatoon police station. “I’m going home without my son today, and I need answers.”

She was visibly emotional, crying as she spoke of her son. She blamed gang activity and her son’s involvement in gangs.

“I believe the gangs succeeded in taking my son,” she said. “I’m glad my son is where he’s at. He doesn’t have to answer to them anymore.”


Read more: Mother says gangs behind stolen truck crash, son’s death


A 33-year-old passenger in the truck and the driver of the other vehicle were taken to hospital as a precaution, but both have since been released.

A firearm and ammunition were found in the vehicle, according to Weighill. The truck’s passenger was arrested on outstanding warrants for possessing the proceeds of crime, possessing property obtained by crime, dangerous driving, theft, obstruction of a police officer, aggravated assault and unlawful confinement.

The truck’s key was inside the vehicle when it was stolen, Weighill said.

Police will be showing the full video of the incident to Eaglechief’s family, according to Weighill.

“We will be allowing them to see the full video of what happened because I want to make sure they understand, they can see for themselves, the whole incident that unfolded,” he said.

An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.

--- Mark Villani contributed to this report