A Teenager Is Suing Police After Being Shot with an Officer’s Stolen Gun

The semi-automatic handgun used in the shooting was allegedly left sitting in open sight on one of the backseats of a police car.

by Jake Kivanc
17 February 2016, 5:00am

The RCMP and an officer are being sued after after a cop's gun was stolen. Photo via Wikimedia

A Canadian teen who was shot last year with a gun stolen from an RCMP cruiser is suing the national police force, the attorney general of Canada, and the officer in question for an undisclosed amount.

Sixteen-year-old Calli Vanderaa was shot in the parking lot of the convenience store last October, where she had stopped with a few friends. The single bullet that hit her left her with a punctured lung, along with damage to her ribs and internal organs.

The semi-automatic handgun used in the shooting was allegedly stolen from the cruiser of Sergeant Chris McCuen earlier that evening after it was left sitting in open sight on one of the backseats of the car.

Although the police said Vanderaa was not the target of the shooting, 22-year-old Matthew Wilfrid McKay and 25-year-old Matthew Andrew Miles have been charged with a number of crimes, including an attempted murder charge for the shooting of McKay.

Vanderaa's lawyer launched the lawsuit last week, which seeks compensation for both "physical and psychological" damages sustained by Vanderaa.

"This is a little girl, who had a bullet tear through her lung, her spleen, her colon, [and it] took two ribs on the way through. I mean, she was massively beat up," Robert Tapper, Vanderaa's lawyer, told the CBC.

"What is she looking for? She's looking for compensation. It's really as simple as that."

A similar incident happened in Barrie, Ontario, last year when an officer with the Peel Regional Police left her handgun unattended in her car at night. The man who stole the gun and its ammunition was later arrested and charged after he posted a video threatening to kill his cousin with the weapon.

That officer—43-year-old Constable Tracy Cleland—pleaded guilty to careless storage of a firearm. Davin Charney, a Toronto lawyer with an expertise in criminal law and police wrongdoing, told VICE he would expect to see a similar charge against McCuen, which will come on top of the lawsuit launched by the victim.

"I would be surprised if the officer wasn't charged with careless storage of a firearm," Charney told VICE.

"If someone steals a gun and shoots someone with it, that action isn't the criminal responsibility of the officer, but he or she does have a responsibility to store the gun properly. What changes in all of that is that the RCMP could be liable for a much more substantial claim [due to the injuries]."

Making note of more-typical examples of police brutality such as the shootings and assaults that have dominated the media, Charney said that this case is an example of one of the main issues that is overlooked when it comes to "bad policing"—the financial cost.

"When we think of bad policing, we think of harm caused to people, or where people are beat up and they die, but there's a financial cost to all of this as well. Bad policing is expensive, it increases the cost of what the public pays for policing, and the people ultimately bear that cost."

The RCMP responded to VICE's request for an interview by saying that the matter was still under investigation, and the police force could not comment on the matter.

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