By Delon Shurtz on September 25, 2021.
A southern Alberta man who was only seconds away from being shot by police during a high risk take down last year, has been sent to a federal penitentiary.
Lance Fred Chalifoux was sentenced to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty Thursday in Lethbridge provincial court to charges of assault, assaulting a peace officer, discharging a pistol to avoid arrest, resisting arrest and failing to comply with probation.
The 30-year-old man was wanted on an outstanding warrant in relation to an allegation he had stabbed his girlfriend, and at about noon on July 22 of this year police received a call from a civilian that Chalifoux was at a residence on 5 Avenue North. Aware that he is a violent offender and could be armed, police, including members of the tactical team, cautiously approached the residence.
“Police members decided rather than storm the residence, to wait for Mr. Chalifoux to exit to avoid a possible hostage situation,” Crown Prosecutor Adam Zelmer told court.
Several hours later Chalifoux left the apartment complex and rode away on a bicycle. Shortly afterward an officer in a police vehicle approached Chalifoux, who, when he saw the patrol car, made a grab for the waistband of his pants.
Believing Chalifoux was reaching for a gun, the officer struck him with his vehicle, knocking him off his bicycle. Chalifoux ran to the front of the vehicle, and as the officer approached, he jumped up, holding what appeared to be a black handgun.
The officer drew his own gun, told Chalifoux to stop and said he was under arrest, but Chalifoux ran off toward 6 Avenue South. After he had run several metres, Chalifoux turned and shot at the officer. The officer did not shoot back given the amount of traffic and number of pedestrians in the area, but he radioed other tactical team members, who began to flank the shooter “with the intention of engaging Mr. Chalifoux with lethal force if necessary,” Zelmer said.
“They also had their service firearms at the ready, and were trying to get themselves into a position where they could engage Mr. Chalifoux without potentially striking the members of the public who were behind him on 6 Avenue South.”
The officer Chalifoux shot at was struck in the right foot and shin, and he scrambled for cover behind a shed. He checked for blood, didn’t see any, then realized as Chalifoux continued shooting at him that Chalifoux was actually armed with an airsoft pistol.
The officer radioed the other officers who were approaching and told them Chalifoux did not have a real gun.
“(An officer) identified that he was just about to engage Mr. Chalifoux with lethal force but thanks to the (other officer’s) presence of mind he did not engage Chalifoux with lethal force,” Zelmer said.
Officers ordered Chalifoux to throw the gun aside and lie down on the ground, which he did. Police found in his backpack a hammer, folding knife and multi tool. At the time Chalifoux was subject to a probation order that prohibited him from possessing weapons for life.
After Chalifoux was placed in cells at the police station, he appeared to overdose, and although he was given shots of Narcan, he continued to show symptoms. EMS was called, and believed Chalifoux may be faking the overdose, but he was taken to the hospital.
At the hospital Chalifoux spit at the emergency nurse attending to him, kicked officers and threatened them.
“(He) stated that if the handcuffs weren’t removed he would get the officers’ weapons and he would kill them.”
Zelmer pointed out that Chalifoux’s criminal record contains 91 convictions and he has been sent to jail 42 times resulting in a total of nearly 10 years of custody.
Lethbridge lawyer Darcy Shurtz acknowledged that even though Chalifoux only had an airsoft gun, officers didn’t know that at first and could have shot him.
“Mr. Chalifoux is extremely fortunate or lucky that he wasn’t shot himself, and I believe he realizes that,” Shurtz said.
He said Chalifoux, who is addicted to alcohol and drugs, is remorseful for his actions and offered an early guilty plea to the charges. He hopes when he is released from prison he can return to his girlfriend and stepchildren, and find work. He also hopes to receive counseling and treatment while he is in custody.
In addition to his sentence, Chalifoux must also submit a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Databank, and he was once again prohibited from possessing weapons for life.
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