'He tried to kill me': Officer recounts moments leading to Austin Eaglechief’s death in emotional inquest testimony
Published Tuesday, August 20, 2019 3:13PM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, August 20, 2019 6:56PM CST
Const. Allisha Stewart said she hasn’t been able to fully return to her job as a police officer following an incident on June 19, 2017.
Stewart was rammed on Clearwater Place by a stolen truck that police were trying to stop, she said Tuesday at an inquest into the death of Austin Eaglechief, who was driving the truck.
She suffered a concussion, severe whiplash, a lower back injury and elbow injury.
Stewart said she was standing beside the passenger-side of her police car, when she realized the stolen truck was speeding towards her. She managed to jump inside the passenger seat. The truck’s force pushed her vehicle in a resident’s driveway.
"He tried to kill me," Stewart testified, referring to Eaglechief.
Eaglechief, 22, died in a crash with another vehicle on Airport Drive and Circle Drive following a police chase which followed the incident involving Stewart at Clearwater Place. The inquest into Eaglechief’s death began Monday.
On Tuesday, Stewart held back tears as she remembered thinking her police partner was killed.
"I just saw a puddle of red fluid and I thought Const. Bertrand was dead. I turned around and saw Bertrand walking towards me so it was a big relief," she said, shaking.
Bertrand fired shots at the vehicle. An autopsy has already determined Eaglechief didn’t die from a bullet.
Sgt. Richard Bueckert, who called on the high-risk traffic stop at Clearwater Place, said he was “shocked” Stewart’s injuries weren’t worse.
"I can’t believe we had an officer walk away from that. I’m thankful," Beuckert told the six-person jury of the inquest.
After ramming Stewart’s police car, the stolen black Silverado truck with a lift kit sped away from the River Heights neighbourhood.
Footage from the Saskatoon Police Service Air Support Unit showed the stolen vehicle drove at speeds of 160 kilometres per hour and ran red lights.
Speed sticks were not effective in stopping the large truck, the inquest heard.
The police chase ended with the stolen truck crashing into another vehicle in Saskatoon’s north end.
Eaglechief’s body was found wedged underneath the steering wheel with a head injury. His body was so crumpled, officers were unable to get him out of the vehicle, the inquest heard.
A passenger in the vehicle was arrested. A shotgun, bear spray and knife were found in the vehicle.
Buekert said the passenger was affiliated with gangs. The passenger is scheduled to testify later in the inquest.
An inquest has a fact-finding, not fault-finding goal. The purpose of an inquest isn’t to make any convictions, but make recommendations to avoid similar deaths from happening in the future.