'It can be very frustrating': Officer expresses need for more police cruisers with push-bars
More police cruisers equipped with push-bars could help officers do their jobs more effectively, a sergeant testified Wednesday at the inquest into the death of a man who died following a police chase
Sgt. Aaron Moser was working the night Austin Eaglechief died in a stolen truck that collided with another vehicle.
Prior to the crash, officers attempted to stop the vehicle in a cul-de-sac in the River Heights neighbourhood. The attempt was unsuccessful. The stolen truck rammed a police vehicle, an officer was injured, another officer fired shots and the stolen truck sped off.
That’s when Moser headed to police headquarters to get better equipment – a vehicle with a push-bar on the bumper. Moser testified he needed a vehicle that could take on the stolen truck, which had modified tires and a lift kit. The sergeant said the driver of the stolen vehicle was using it as a weapon, and the truck had to be stopped.
"My plan was to hit it as hard as I could to disable it," Moser testified, adding that crashing into another vehicle is a last resort.
Moser’s plan didn’t happen. The collision between the stolen truck and the other vehicle occurred just seconds before Moser arrived.
Moser said it would be beneficial for officers to have access to a push-bar vehicle at all times – instead of having to go to the police station and make a request.
Of the 159 police vehicles in Saskatoon, only eight are equipped with push-bars, according to police. It costs $1,200 to purchase and install a push-bar on a Saskatoon patrol vehicle.
"It can be very frustrating to deal with these incidents and not have the proper equipment," Moser told the jury.
A juror suggested that perhaps the damage on the police vehicle, that was rammed by the stolen truck, wouldn’t have been as significant if it had a push-bar. Moser agreed.
The coroner asked if having even just one push-bar vehicle on-shift would beneficial. Moser said it would be "a step in the right direction" and he would be "thrilled" if that was possible.
Stolen truck affiliated with gangs, inquest hears
Moser said he was especially motivated to get a push-bar vehicle after the stolen truck was spotted in front of a house affiliated with gangs.
After the stolen truck was totaled, Matthew Gamble, the passenger in the stolen truck, was arrested at gunpoint, Moser told the inquest.
Moser said he knew of Gamble because other officers were looking for him. Gamble was wanted for an outstanding warrant for assault.
Moser testified Gamble had confined another gang member, cut off his finger and tortured him.
A day after the crash, Eaglechief’s mother blamed the gang’s for taking her son’s life.
"I believe the gangs succeeded in taking my son, Agatha Eaglechief told CTV News on June 20, 2017.
The inquest was expected to hear from Gamble Tuesday afternoon. But Gamble decided not to testify after meeting with Agatha moments before he was expected to take the stand.
The lawyer representing the Eaglechief family refused to say why Gamble wouldn’t testify, but said “Agatha was given closure, which is part of this inquest process.”
A paramedic on-scene is scheduled to testify on Thursday at the inquest into Eaglechief’s death. The jury’s recommendations are expected to follow.
The purpose of an inquest is not to make any convictions, but rather figure out what led to a death to try and avoid similar situations from happening again in the future.