The man who shot two Mounties in Alberta on Saturday was set free on bail twice in the past 14 months. The second time came when Shawn Maxwell Rehn was charged with 15 offences in Edmonton and nearby Fort Saskatchewan, including weapons offences, less than a month after he was set free on the previous bail.
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Those releases are sparking a debate about whether chronic or career criminals are being granted bail too easily. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says he has never seen anything like the release of a criminal with such a long, complex record as Mr. Rehn’s. He had served three federal penitentiary terms by the age of 32, and committed close to 60 offences, a handful of them involving violence or illegal guns, when he was released from federal prison in 2013.
The question Canadians need to understand, Mr. Paulson said, is whether it was reasonable “for this man to be walking around us.”
Defence lawyer Chady Moustarah of Edmonton, who represented Mr. Rehn in the second and final bail hearing, replied in an interview: “The Commissioner must be aware how the system works. Everything is happening at a very fast pace. He’s arrested by police, booked into custody; the police are working with very limited tools.” And it is a police officer who serves as the prosecutor in most bail hearings in Edmonton and Calgary, he said.
Under federal law, bail is a right, but courts may withhold it if they believe the accused is a danger to public safety or won’t show up for court. A justice of the peace released Mr. Rehn on $4,500 cash bail, with no family member or friend providing community support in the bail order, Mr. Moustarah said.
The police officer serving as prosecutor could have asked for the first bail to be revoked, or appealed the second bail order, or asked for someone to act as a guarantor that Mr. Rehn would keep to the bail conditions. But the officer did none of these things, Mr. Moustarah said.
“I quoted some of the case law in the country, saying just because someone has a record or is on bail doesn’t mean they are not releaseable.” It was not even up to the prosecutor to show why Mr. Rehn should not be released; instead, the legal burden fell on Mr. Rehn to show why he should be. And he won his release anyway.
One of the two wounded officers is expected to recover, but Constable David Wynn, shot in the head at point-blank range at a casino outside Edmonton on Saturday morning, never regained consciousness. “Today is the day that we say goodbye to Dave,” his wife, Shelly MacInnis-Wynn, said as she fought tears on Monday afternoon. Constable Wynn’s sister, Dawn Sephton, thanked the staff of two Edmonton-area hospitals for their efforts to save the 42-year-old father of three. Mr. Rehn shot himself dead after the shootings of the Mounties.
The man, who was first convicted at the age of 15, didn’t earn his release easily. Parole authorities had denied him both full parole and day parole on a 2006 sentence, fearing he would commit violence if released, documents show. On a 2010, five-year sentence, they later revoked his statutory release, which is near-automatic at the two-thirds point, after police found knives and an imitation gun in his car, and a witness saw him spray-paint over his licence plate.
Soon after his release from federal prison, Mr. Rehn began committing crimes on a regular basis, according to police. In October, 2013, he was charged in Edmonton with fraud over $5,000, and breaching two conditions of his release. He was released on Nov. 19 on $2,000 bail.
Two weeks later, on Dec. 14, he was charged in Fort Saskatchewan with resisting a peace officer, using an imitation firearm and five other offences, including three of breaching his bail conditions. He was also charged separately with eight more counts from Edmonton, including weapons offences. This time he was released again on $4,500 bail on Sept. 13, for the two separate sets of charges.
Government records also point to a policing problem.
On Oct. 28, Mr. Rehn slipped the grasp of authorities, and was charged with evading police, dangerous driving, breaching four conditions of his release from jail, disqualified driving, driving without insurance and displaying unauthorized plates. Then in November, police twice charged him with failing to appear in court. But a warrant was not issued for his arrest until Jan. 6, just a week before the shootings. Edmonton police did not respond to a request for an interview on Monday.
Mr. Rehn had also been subject to an emergency protective order keeping him away from his common-law spouse. In May, 2009, Mr. Rehn’s partner applied for the order in Edmonton after he assaulted her in front of their then-five-month-old daughter. According to the partner, Mr. Rehn had assaulted her in the past but she hadn’t contacted authorities. Neighbours called police after witnessing the assault. She said in court transcripts that she sought the order to avoid child services.
“He’s of a violent nature,” she said of Mr. Rehn. “He uses drugs and he does criminal activity, brings the heat around the house.”
She claimed he choked her until she was unconscious, ripped out her hair and broke her collarbone.
She said that he had forced her and their daughter to sleep alongside him while he held a loaded gun. “He was being paranoid and thought there was people gonna roll on us,” she said, explaining that she believed criminals would come to her home to cause trouble.
She said Mr. Rehn owed a failing delivery business at the time.