By JONNY WAKEFIELD, Edmonton Journal, December 18, 2017
A man shot at by an Edmonton police officer after his truck backed into a police bicycle says the August collision was an accident.
“I remembered I backed up; there was no one beside me on the passenger side,” said Bryan Santa, 52, who contacted Postmedia from the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre.
“I backed up about maybe five feet and then I pulled out to get back on 99 Street. As I was leaving the parking lot, I heard this ‘bang’ and the bullet actually missed my head by eight inches.”
According to court records, Santa was charged with dangerous driving, assault with a weapon — the truck — and breaching court-mandated conditions in connection with the Aug. 30 incident in the strip mall parking lot at Whyte Avenue and 99 Street. He’d been charged earlier that month with obstructing a peace officer and breaching conditions.
Santa, a heavy equipment operator, said he was shopping at a Mac’s store and a liquor store in the strip mall at around 10 p.m. after starting a new job that day.
He was driving a white, older model F-350. He said he is blind in his left eye from a 2006 assault, but is not prohibited from driving.
Santa said he was pulling out of a parking space toward 99 Street when two bullets struck the truck. The first shattered the passenger-side window and struck the interior rearview mirror. The second bullet hit the door.
Santa said he did not know who was shooting at him. Frightened, he drove west down an alley toward the A&W before pulling back onto Whyte Avenue. When he drove back by the convenience store, he did not see anyone in the parking lot.
“I was scared for my life; I had no idea who (it was),” Santa said.
He did not find out that he had backed into a police bicycle, or that an officer had fired the shots, until the next day, he said.
Santa was eventually arrested Sept. 13 and later denied bail, he said.
The Edmonton Police Service is still investigating the August shooting, and would not comment further. A spokesperson said the police officer was not injured.
The force notified the province’s director of law enforcement about the incident, who referred it back to local investigators and not the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), Alberta’s police watchdog.
ASIRT’s mandate is to investigate serious injuries, deaths or allegations of serious misconduct that “may have resulted from the actions of a police officer.”
Santa said he was hit by a piece of rearview mirror that was shattered by one of the bullets, but was not seriously hurt.
At the time, police said they were investigating a report of a stolen vehicle in the area.
After his arrest, Santa was also charged with having a stolen licence plate. Santa said the truck belongs to him. He said he did not know why a stolen licence plate was on it.
Santa said he wants ASIRT or another third party to investigate the incident.
Susan Hughson, ASIRT executive director, said all cases where a police officer discharges a firearm are reported to the director of law enforcement. The director left the matter with Edmonton police because there was no indication anyone was injured, she said.
She said it’s “not uncommon” for police to investigate cases where their own officers fired a weapon but did not injure anyone.
Santa also has upcoming court appearances in Dawson Creek, B.C., on charges from 2014 of theft under $5,000, break and enter, possession of stolen property under $5,000 and theft of a motor vehicle.
Santa is set to appear in court on the Alberta charges in March, court records show.