By Lethbridge Herald on May 5, 2020.
The “Star Wars” saga continues, but this time it’s not set a long, long time ago or in a galaxy far away.
It was Monday, in Lethbridge, and instead of droids, Imperial armies or a handful of Jedi Knights, it was a lone Storm Trooper outside Coco Vanilla Galactic Cantina on 13 Street North.
Lethbridge police received calls that someone dressed in a Storm Trooper costume and carrying a weapon was seen in north Lethbridge. Officers responded and saw the suspect with what appeared to be a firearm and ordered the costume-clad woman to drop the weapon and lie on the ground.
At first “the person did not comply with police verbal directions,” Insp. Jason Walper said later in the day during a news conference at the police station. Eventually she complied, but only after repeated orders by officers.
The woman was detained and as police investigated the incident they learned the woman had been hired by a “nearby business” to do some advertising, and the suspected weapon was only a toy. The woman was not charged.
Although witnesses said the woman immediately complied with police instructions for her to drop the gun, she was still taken to the ground and handcuffed. A witness also noted the employee was unable to immediately drop to the ground because of the difficulty moving in the costume.
Walper said he was informed the woman was not co-operative at first, but eventually dropped to her knees and then was pushed to the ground and handcuffed.
Walper said the first response when police receive a weapons complaint is to ensure the safety of officers and the public, and to seize the weapon. The subsequent investigation, after everyone is deemed safe, then determines exactly what occurred.
On Tuesday the Lethbridge Police Service announced it had initiated an investigation into the actions of several officers who responded to the firearms complaint Monday morning.
A news release states police responded to two 911 calls reporting that a person in a Storm Trooper costume was carrying a firearm in the 500 block of 13 Street North.
“Upon police arrival, the subject dropped the weapon but did not initially comply with further police directions to get down on the ground,” the news release states.
The woman sustained a “minor injury,” which did not require medical attention.
After reviewing the file and additional information, including video circulating on social media, Chief Scott Woods directed a service investigation under the Alberta Police Act to determine whether the officers acted appropriately within the scope of their training and LPS policies and procedures.
Coco Vanilla owner Bradley Whalen said the victim is “doing OK. We’re still trying to evaluate where it goes from here. We’ve had a continual number of lawyers offering to navigate the situation and help us understand what we should do and how we should do it.
“We would hope that when the investigation does take place that it is done fairly that they go beyond what they need to do.”
Whalen added the story has taken on a life of its own with interview requests coming from across North America.
“We’ve just been inundated with so much information, it’s been a little crazy,” said Whalen.
“If there’s been one positive to come out this negative is we’re so grateful for the people who are supporting us. The orders haven’t stopped coming in which is great.”
Whalen said the support from the woman’s family has also been tremendous.
“Her family has been really supportive of our business and we’ll continue to support her as much as we can.”
The police statement notes that the LPS has received a number of public comments and inquiries about the incident but, “regrettably, we do not have the capacity to respond to every individual call and message.”
An update will be provided after the investigation has been completed and reviewed.
Follow @DShurtzHerald on Twitter
Warning: video contains course language