It was only a 10-minute police pursuit but six shots were fired directly at RCMP as they pursued an SUV with suspected gang associates through Onion Lake at speeds up to 177 km/hour past two schools in mid-afternoon.
Parts of an RCMP victim impact statement were read into Lloydminster Provincial Court April 29 before the driver of the SUV, Tyler Ryan Wolfe, 35, from Onion Lake Cree Nation was sentenced to six years in prison.
“I was convinced that day it was only a matter of time until the accused’s SUV or bullets killed someone,” said RCMP Const. Jacob Isaac who was involved in the pursuit on Onion Lake Cree Nation Jan. 1, 2021.
“This was a feeling very few will experience and was a heavy burden on all of us to accept that we had to potentially die trying to stop this out-of-control threat to society.
“I can remember hearing the updates on the radio as we all pursued and I think to myself ‘how do we stop this before someone dies?’ As various scenarios ran through my head on how to stop them, very few had the likelihood of coming out uninjured or (not) killed,” said Const. Isaac. “I’m confident my co-workers had the same gut wrenching thoughts.”
Wolfe pleaded guilty in Lloydminster Provincial Court today to discharging a firearm, not stopping a vehicle while being pursued, and driving in a dangerous manner.
North Battleford Crown Prosecutor Oryn Holm and Saskatoon defence lawyer Blaine Beaven entered a joint submission to the court April 29.
Judge Kim Young said he would reluctantly go along with the joint submission, adding he thought eight years in prison was more fitting but Wolfe’s lawyer had successfully “whittled it down” with the Crown to six years.
The court heard that on Jan. 1, 2021, five people put firearms into an SUV, grabbed alcohol, left Lloydminster and headed towards Onion Lake. Wolfe was driving.
On the way they drank alcohol and at some point, Wolfe stopped the SUV and some of the passengers got out and took turns shooting at trees in a field.
They got back into the SUV and continued to Onion Lake.
At approximately 2 p.m. they drove into a rural farmyard a few kilometres outside of Onion Lake. The front gate to the property was locked so they drove the SUV over a barbwire fence, drove through a corral system and opened a few gates to get into the farmyard.
Panic after discovering it’s an RCMP officer’s yard
That’s when the occupants of the SUV noticed a fully marked police vehicle in the farmyard. The Crown told the court that they panicked and Wolfe started to drive the SUV out of the yard but got stuck. One passenger got out and pushed the SUV. They got unstuck and Wolfe rammed the SUV through the front gate, damaging the gate and SUV in the process.
At this point the RCMP officer and his wife called the RCMP detachment and officers started searching for the SUV.
The SUV with its five occupants was on Highway 17 and headed back towards Lloydminster when they saw an Onion Lake First Nation security checkpoint so they turned around and headed back towards Onion Lake.
An RCMP officer saw the SUV and activated his lights and sirens trying to stop the vehicle. Several other RCMP officers followed.
The SUV continued to drive down Highway 17 and approached Chief Taylor Road on Onion Lake. The SUV drove through a four-way stop sign and headed towards the heart of the community of Onion Lake. The RCMP continued the pursuit.
Shots fired at RCMP
A passenger in the front of the SUV leaned out of the window and shot at the police. The pursuing RCMP officer heard the sound of a bullet and its impact on the ground. He saw a spray of snow where the bullet hit.
The SUV continued down Chief Taylor Road reaching speeds of approximately 177 km/hour. It was in the afternoon, shortly after 2 p.m., and the suspects sped past two school zones and a medical clinic on Onion Lake.
The passengers of the SUV smashed their back window and fired more shots at the RCMP. The pursuing officer heard the loud crack of a bullet travelling past him. At this point the officer decided to back off.
The SUV then headed west and went past an RCMP vehicle. The officer pulled to the side of the road, drew his service revolver and allowed the vehicle to pass. The officer followed it and heard a gunshot come from the SUV.
In total, about six shots were fired at RCMP, said the Crown prosecutor.
The officer briefly lost sight of the SUV and then spotted it near the high school.
One occupant in the front passenger seat jumped out and Wolfe got out of the driver side. The two ran in different directions.
The officer pursued the passenger and told other officers where Wolfe was headed. The officer commanded the passenger to stop running, which he did and was arrested. Wolfe ran to a nearby gas station and hid in a garbage can where police found him.
Police also arrested Danny Lee Weeseekase, 38, from Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, Twaine Derek Buffalo-Naistus, 39, and Glynnis Larene Chief, 37, from Onion Lake Cree Nation, and Melissa McAlpine from Lloydminster. RCMP say the accused are alleged street gang associates.
When police searched the SUV they found two SKS rifles, a sawed-off shotgun, a sawed-off 22-caliber rifle and ammunition.
Wolfe’s defence told the court that he panicked that day and regrets his actions.
“He was panicking, worrying about going back to jail,” said Beaven.
He told the court that Wolfe grew up on Onion Lake playing sports, riding horses, and had a good childhood with good parents who are disappointed in his actions.
Wolfe worked in the oil field and was usually employed. His life, however, fell apart after his partner died and he has never dealt with the grief of her death.
Beaven said Wolfe doesn’t usually hang around with the people he was with that day.
“He has a lot of regrets. He can’t change it so he is taking responsibility.”
When Judge Young asked Wolfe if he had anything to say to the court, Wolfe said, “I would like to apologize for that day. I’m taking responsibility for my actions that day and I’m glad no one was hurt. I’m sorry.”
Before sentencing, Judge Kim Young told Wolfe his actions were selfish.
“According to your lawyer you have five kids at home and instead of spending New Year’s Eve with your family, you selfishly chose to be out with a bunch of hooligans.
"Don’t give me the line that you are worried about your family (now) because you certainly weren’t on the first of January. That was the last thing apparently on your mind.”
Onion Lake Cree Nation has been battling gang activity and declared a state of emergency in January 2020 after a string of drug and gang-related violence threatened the safety of its residents.
If you are associated with a gang and want to leave it, contact STR8 UP in northern Saskatchewan at 306-763-3001, STR8 UP in central Saskatchewan at 306-244-1771, or Regina Treaty Status Indian Services in southern Saskatchewan at 306-522-7494 to get assistance.
Onion Lake Cree Nation borders the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and is located about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster.