KAMLOOPS - A bulletproof vest, a quick-thinking backup officer, countless surgeries and maybe a stroke of luck are what saved Cpl. Jean-Rene Michaud after he sustained two gunshot injuries from a man he pulled over on Dec. 3, 2014. Today, March 17, the recovered officer along with family, supporters and several fellow officers attended a full courtroom to watch a judge hand the man who nearly ended his life 16 and a half years in jail.
The term of the sentence was a joint submission by Crown and defence, which Justice Austin Cullen accepted after Kenneth Michael Knutson pleaded guilty to attempted murder with a restricted firearm.
"This type of violence targeted to anyone in the community certainly is alarming but when it is targeted to a police officer it strikes to the heart of the community," Kamloops RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller said.
Michaud was shot after he pulled over a white sedan in the Batchelor Heights neighbourhood of Kamloops during his night shift. The vehicle was suspected of being used to deal drugs throughout the city. When he spotted the car near 8 Street, Michaud followed, flicked his lights on and attempted to pull the vehicle over. Instead, the car fled until it reached Batchelor Heights. Michaud conducted the stop around 2:40 a.m.
Before exiting his vehicle, the officer reported the license plate number to dispatch and called for backup. By the time he reached the passenger side of the vehicle, the gunfire had already started.
Crown prosecutor Colin Forsyth told the court Knutson fired six rounds at Michaud, as Const. Steve Marcil returned fire, emptying his magazine in the process. The incident resulted in two windows breaking in the car, before Knutson fled and officers attended to Michaud.
Supt. Brad Mueller said the quick efforts of Marcil and others helped save Michaud's life.
"Returning fire and assisting in first aid and assistance of Michaud was instrumental," Mueller commented. He said the Mountie, who was fresh out of depot at the time, will receive formal accolades for his work.
Michaud sustained two bullet wounds in the abdomen and elbow. Forsyth said the officer recalled being shot and falling on his stomach before he was rushed to hospital. The last memory Michaud could conjure before he lost consciousness, Forsyth says, was hospital staff removing his bulletproof vest. Overall the injuries he sustained caused one of his lungs to collapse. He endured 12 surgeries over 100 days in hospital.
Before the shooting that morning, Knutson had been spending time with a female friend who accompanied him to the Shark Club. But after the pair realized they missed the last call for drinks, they decided to stop at the North Shore McDonalds before going home. Forsyth said after the shooting happened, the woman in Knutson's car "freaked out" and asked him to pull over and let her out, which he did. She then walked home.
Forsyth said police knew Knutson was connected to two different properties in the Batchelor Heights neighbourhood; one on Raven Drive and the other in a townhouse complex on Grasslands Boulevard. To ditch the white sedan, Knutson drove to the Raven Drive property and parked the vehicle in the garage. He then quickly tried to stitch up a bullet wound on his arm before driving to the Grasslands Boulevard location in a red cadillac.
While at the second house, Knutson didn’t indicate what happened to others staying there, but continued with his attempts to stop the gunshot wound from bleeding, Forsyth said. After the shooting, the RCMP Emergency Response Team surrounded both properties. Knutson was taken into custody after a 13-hour manhunt.
In their search of both properties, police found drugs, two 9mm bullets in a toilet and multiple items covered in Knutson’s blood. Police also found a gun holster and various cellphones.
The gun used in the offence was found buried behind the Grasslands Boulevard property a week later by the RCMP K9 unit, which Mueller said was imperative for the investigation.
Knutson has already served 22.5 months of his sentence and has over 14 years left to serve. Once released, he is prohibited from owning firearms for the rest of his life and must submit a sample of his DNA into the national registery.
Forsyth declined comment on how Crown and defence counsels came up with the sentence. Mueller said Kamloops RCMP and Michaud were involved in discussions on sentencing recommendations, and strongly considered a dangerous offender designation, which carries an indefinite prison sentence, at one point.
RCMP formally reviewed the case and found the involved officers followed policy during the incident.
Michaud has since returned to work at the detachment in a limited capacity and will soon return to his full operational duties.
One year later: The shooting of a Kamloops police officer
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— This story was updated at 12:31 p.m., Thursday, March 17, 2016 after a morning court hearing.
— This story was updated at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, March 17, 2016 after an afternoon court hearing.
—This story was updated at 3:08 p.m, Thursday, March 17, 2016 after an RCMP press conference.