[This story was originally published in the May 21, 2015 edition of the Quad Town Forum.]
[Ed. note: Out of an abundance of public interest, we are taking the uncommon step of posting this story to our website ahead of its publication in our June 17 edition. Please also note that the story appearing in print may differ from that posted here, as more information comes to light over the coming days. Const. Shelby Patton is seen above in this photo supplied by the RCMP.]
Sgt. Ryan Case of the Indian Head RCMP detachment says he met Const. Shelby Patton for the first time at an accident scene in the Wolseley area. Years later, it’s also where he saw Patton for the last time.
Case told The Forum on Sunday that he was the first police officer on scene Saturday morning after Patton, 26, had been run over by a truck following a traffic stop in town.
According to an RCMP news release, Patton was struck while outside of his vehicle after pulling over a truck that had been stolen from Manitoba. Patton, who died at the scene, had been with the RCMP since early 2015 and had spent the entirety of his career at Indian Head detachment.
“He was brand spanking new when I first met him out on the highway by Wolseley … in my previous job in Regina as a collision reconstructionist,” said Case, who joined the Indian Head detachment in 2016.
“It was a real ugly scene and I can remember seeing him and afterward saying ‘man oh man, he is quiet, he doesn’t say a thing.’ Very meek, very mild, and you could tell he was very, very fresh. I asked who he was and, the other officers, they said ‘That’s our new guy’ and I said ‘Well he’s learning some things quickly.’”
And learn he did, to the point where Case said Sunday that Patton’s future in the RCMP wouldn’t have been on the front lines anyway.
“Essentially, if you needed to pick somebody that already existed to do that job, he was the guy to clone, however many you needed,” said Case. “He checked off all those boxes to what you needed. He was just so excellent at doing his job in all areas, be it the talent, be it the skill, the drive, teamwork, caring for people, and really yesterday it comes right down to showing exactly that. Because he was so good at his job, this is what happened.
“I think about him from that day up to where he ended up, and it was just night and day. And it happens to everybody … you become much more confident in what you’re doing, and it just comes with experience, but developing from what he was before, he had a very bright future ahead of him. We always joked, and he downplayed it all the time, but we always joked that he was going to be moving up into higher echelons of the RCMP at some point in time and you could see the potential there already.”
The suspects in Patton’s death were arrested later Saturday morning in a field east of Francis.
“A tragedy such as this shakes our entire RCMP family to its core, coast to coast,” Rhonda Blackmore, commanding officer for the Saskatchewan RCMP, said at a news conference Saturday afternoon. “Although we wear a police uniform, we are regular people, going to our job each day, just as everyone else does. Today, Constable Patton will not come home from doing his job protecting the public.”
Asked if he’d experienced anything similar in his 21-year policing career, Case echoed Blackmore’s sentiments.
“No. Not even close,” said Case, whose assignments have also included assisting with the police response to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash north of Tisdale in 2018.
He added that, while some officers from Indian Head and Montmartre detachments insisted on working their regular shifts, no one was being required to report for duty in the days following the accident and that any required coverage would be provided by neighbouring detachments throughout southeast Saskatchewan.
“When something like this happens you cannot be more thankful for who you work for, because the services and supports that are in place for all people at all levels … it’s absolutely incredible,” said Case.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
This timeline has been compiled from various updates provided by the RCMP in the 48 hours following Const. Shelby Patton’s death.
June 12, 7:04 a.m. — Indian Head RCMP received a complaint that a stolen pick-up truck from Manitoba had been spotted in Wolseley. The complaint was dispatched to Patton, who drove to the community to investigate the complaint.
June 12, 7:50 a.m. — Patton stopped the stolen pick-up truck on Sherbrooke Street in Wolseley, near the intersection with Front Street.
June 12, 7:56 a.m. — Indian Head RCMP received an urgent dispatch mentioning an RCMP officer had been struck by a vehicle and was in cardiac arrest. Members of the public were on scene and performed first aid until the arrival of EMS and police. Patton was declared deceased at the scene.
June 12, 8:38 a.m. — Odessa-area farmer Leonard Gaetz called 911 to report that occupants of a white pick-up truck had been on his property and stolen one of his trucks. Police responded and searched the area for the two stolen vehicles.
June 12, 10 a.m. (approximate) — RCMP members arrested the two suspects in Patton’s death in a farmer’s field east of Francis.
June 14, 9:30 a.m. — The accused were scheduled to appear in Regina Provincial Court to face multiple charges, including one count each of manslaughter.
[Ed. note: Out of an abundance of public interest, we are taking the uncommon step of posting this story to our website ahead of its publication in our June 17 edition. Please also note that the story appearing in print may differ from that posted here, as more information comes to light over the coming days.]
[This story has been updated as of 11:15 a.m. Monday to reflect additional information provided late Sunday by the RCMP, and also corrects the speed reached during pursuit of the suspect, due to erroneous information that was provided to The Forum on Sunday.]
Leonard Gaetz thought he was just going out Saturday morning to retrieve some stolen property.
Unexpectedly, he also ended up leading police to a pair of suspects in the death of an RCMP officer at Wolseley earlier that day.
“I just wanted my truck back,” Gaetz, who farms about seven kilometres south of Odessa, told The Forum on Sunday.
The RCMP announced Saturday that Const. Shelby Patton, of the Indian Head detachment, was killed while on duty around 8 a.m. that day. Police said Patton had conducted a traffic stop in Wolseley around 7:50 a.m., in response to a truck that had been stolen from Manitoba. While outside his own vehicle, Patton was hit by the stolen truck and died at the scene shortly thereafter.
That was all information Gaetz says he didn’t have when he began pursuing two individuals he believed stole a truck from his yard around 8:30 a.m.
“I was out in the yard working back behind by my granaries,” he explained. “And we’ve got a shed on the west side of the road and our farm is on the east side of the road. So my truck is parked by the shed on the west side and all of a sudden I hear a vehicle drive by, and then I heard it come back into the yard. I knew (my son) Barret wasn’t out of the house yet so I thought I’ll go and see what these people want. Well by the time I got there with my side-by-side, I saw the truck was gone and I could see it going down the road, so I jumped in my other truck and followed them.”
“I thought it was kids and I just thought ‘They can’t have my truck. I need my truck.’”
With the suspects now driving separate stolen trucks, Gaetz said the chase briefly reached speeds of nearly 120 kilometres per hour as he pursued the thieves south for approximately 10 kilometres.
About five kilometres east of Francis, Gaetz says the suspects abandoned his truck and began travelling together once again in their original vehicle. Gaetz then retrieved his own stolen vehicle and called 911 while the suspects continued south. (In an update Sunday night, RCMP said that call was made at 8:38 a.m.)
That decision effectively ended the suspects’ flight as the road turned from gravel to mud, the result of heavy rains that swamped the local area a day earlier. According to police, the wanted individuals made it less than two kilometres further down the road before their vehicle became stuck. An adult male and adult female then fled on foot into a field, where they were arrested just before 10 a.m. with the help of multiple detachments and police dogs.
“I would like to express sincere appreciation to a member of the public who provided medical assistance to Constable Patton until emergency responders could arrive. Also, to farmers in the area who provided assistance to our responding police officers who arrested the suspects,” Rhonda Blackmore, the Saskatchewan RCMP’s commanding officer, said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.
Gaetz says his best guess is that the suspects ditched the truck they’d stolen from his yard when they realized the local resident’s pursuit wasn’t ending any time soon.
“I think they thought I’d quit chasing once I got my truck back,” he said.
And he insists he would have. Still, Gaetz said his wife and daughter both gave him “a rough time” for his decision to take chase, due in part to similarities with the 1976 murders of two Sedley men who chased down a pair of thieves from the community’s annual fall supper.
“My wife says ‘That could have been you, was it worth it?,’” said Gaetz. “But I stayed my distance. I didn’t get close to those buggers … and the Lord did help out. He got them stuck.”
Gaetz also noted that police expressed gratitude afterward for his assistance, as he says they told him they had lost track of the suspects, and were also initially unaware the suspects had made an attempt to change vehicles.
“They said ‘If you wouldn’t have done that and they jumped in your truck, and they continued driving how long, where would have this went and where we would have found them? In Alberta or Manitoba or where?’ because they wouldn’t have known what truck to look for,” said Gaetz.
As for whether he would have reconsidered pursuing his truck had he known all the details ahead of time, Gaetz was non-committal.
“Maybe to a certain degree, but I was a long distance aways from them,” he said. “I wasn’t real close to them so I wasn’t concerned if they did have firearms or something. I was always half a mile behind them.”
The Indian Head and Montmartre detachments are responsible for policing the Highway 48 area from Vibank to Glenavon, along with numerous communities along Highway 1 north of the local area.
All flags at RCMP detachments across the country will be flown at half-mast until sunset on the day of Patton’s funeral, and RM of Francis reeve Rich Morley also offered his condolences Saturday to those who knew the slain officer.
“As much as anything, we’re so disheartened to hear of the incident that went down that cost the life of the RCMP member,” said Morley. “And we feel for all the RCMP officers trying to do their job and having to deal with all of this.”
Sunday night, RCMP announced that two people had been charged in connection with Patton’s death and were scheduled to make their first court appearances Monday morning in Regina.
Alphonse Stanley Traverse, 41, and Marlene Velma Louise Pagee, 42 — both of Winnipeg — are charged with manslaughter, failure to stop after an accident resulting in death, theft of a motor vehicle, possession of stolen property over $5,000, and breach of undertaking. Pagee was also charged with possession of a controlled substance.
The RCMP Major Crime Unit North will lead the ongoing investigation with the assistance of multiple RCMP detachments, the RCMP’s collision reconstruction and forensic identification services, along with numerous other supporting units and partner agencies.