Canada
Shot Alberta sheriff 'going to be OK'

An Alberta Sheriff is taken to a waiting ambulance after being shot in the Whitecourt Alberta courthouse.

Credits: Johnna Ruocco/Whitecourt Star/QMI Agency

PAMELA ROTH | QMI AGENCY

EDMONTON -- An Alberta sheriff shot in the hand Tuesday by a prisoner at the courthouse in Whitecourt is shaken, but in good spirits.

"He's happy that his conditions are not life-threatening.

It looks like he's going to be OK, but at the same time he's very shaken up," said Alberta Justice Minister Jonathon Denis, who spoke Wednesday with the wounded sheriff who's at the University hospital.

"I've advised him to take as much time as he needs."

It was around 11:30 a.m. when gunfire erupted in the courthouse during a regular docket court day. Witnesses reported hearing a scuffle in the back room where the prisoners are held, followed by several gunshots.

One bullet struck the sheriff's hand. He was seen being wheeled into an ambulance, grimacing in pain, his hand covered with blood.

After the shooting, two prisoners fled the scene in a sheriff's van. They were on the run for more than an hour before being arrested at a rural property south of Whitecourt.

Clayton Ness, 29 and Jake MacIntyre, 22, both of Whitecourt, now face numerous charges.

The pair are among six people from the town arrested last week and charged with drug trafficking following a two-month investigation by RCMP and ALERT into organized crime in the area.

Police seized cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, an illegal firearm and various other weapons.

Denis wouldn't go into any detail about what happened at the courthouse since the shooting is still under investigation.

He said the province intends to conduct an internal investigation to see what, if anything, could have prevented it.

"He (sheriff) told me it was really unexpected. He was just coming to work and that particular situation happened," said Denis, declining to comment on whose gun was used.

The shooting has raised questions about courtroom security and staffing levels among sheriffs. Higher traffic courthouses, such as Edmonton and Calgary, have metal detectors, but smaller courthouses like Whitecourt do not.

In December 2011, two Edmonton judges went political in a bid to pressure the Alberta government to provide adequate security in courtrooms. The union boss at the time backed the assertion that the Edmonton courthouse is dangerous.

Clarke McChesney, chairman of Local 003, which represents hundreds of regulatory and correctional employees across the province, isn't sure of a specific shortage, but said it might be time to re think how the sheriffs are deployed in smaller courtrooms such as Whitecourt.

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