WHITECOURT, Alta. – Two suspects are in custody after a sheriff was shot in the hand at a courthouse in northwestern Alberta.
The shooting happened just before noon in the town of Whitecourt, where two local men were making their first court appearance after a drug bust in the town last week.
Eyewitness Kathlene Campbell-Conlon, a reporter for radio station CFXW who was in court to cover the appearances, said the disturbance began with what sounded like a fight in a hallway used to transport prisoners.
“An officer that was in the court at the time hopped the guard rail and ran behind the door,” said Campbell-Conlon. “The door shut, you heard more fights, you heard a couple high-pitched screams, then two, maybe three gunshots.”
Campbell-Conlon said the immediate reaction in court was panic.
“The entire courtroom is just pushing their way to get out, chairs are being thrown around,” she said. “We all get outside, trying to calm down.”
Once outside, Campbell-Conlon witnessed the suspects escape.
“As I walked towards the sounds of everything that’s happening, I saw a man climb into the passenger side of this sheriff’s van.
“You could hear people: ‘There’s a prisoner in there!’ We’re yelling this. Then they backed out and they drove south out of Whitecourt.”
Whitecourt mayor Trevor Thain confirmed the prisoners escaped in the sheriff’s van.
RCMP eventually nabbed the suspects south of the Whitecourt airport near a roadblock.
Thain says the suspects were among those arrested earlier in a drug bust in the community, about 180 kilometres from the provincial capital.
Six people were arrested and charged after that raid, which turned cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as an illegal firearm.