Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stolen car a murky detail in police shooting

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THE family of a 42-year-old Winnipeg tattoo artist shot by police said they were baffled to hear reports the Cadillac the man was driving was stolen.

Winnipeg Police Service officers shot and killed Lance Trevor Muir after they responded to a report of a break-and-enter at 143 Langside St. at about 9 a.m. Sunday.

Residents heard a series of shots and a large bang as a black Cadillac crashed into a garbage bin in a Langside alley near Sara Avenue. Pulled from inside the vehicle was Muir, a former Spartans gang associate.

He was completing a methadone program and lived in a Young Street rooming house after he was released for a failed 1996 execution-style shooting.

His sister, Melanie Backman, said Muir had been driving the car for about a month and told her it belonged to a friend. He drove her to work on Friday in the car, she said.

Police have not confirmed the Cadillac was stolen but sources told the Free Press it was reported to them that way.

"He had car keys and everything. He told me it was just a friend of his who let him borrow it from time to time so that he (could) get around," she said.

On of Muir's friends lived in the basement suite at 143 Langside, where the break-and-enter was reported. Residents in the neighbourhood said they saw a man with a crowbar and a pillowcase in the area before the shooting happened.

Muir was convicted in 1997 of attempted murder and then charged in connection with drug smuggling at Saskatchewan Penitentiary. Backman said her brother had recently shown signs of improvement after he "got wrapped up in the wrong element" when he was younger.

"He was always a genuine friend, he would always give the shirt off his back if you needed it; he would always help you out if you needed it, but at the same time, he was a very troubled soul," she said.

The police service did not say Monday if the Cadillac was stolen, if it veered at officers or if Muir threatened officers with a weapon like a crowbar. Earlier this year, Eric Daniels was threatening officers with a machete on Sargent Avenue when they shot and killed him.

Mike Sutherland, Winnipeg Police Association president, said the officers involved in Sunday's shooting will suffer serious trauma after the incident. He said police shootings happen when officers are "left with no options."

"It's very emotional, it's very stressful, it's very difficult," he said.

Sutherland, a former homicide investigator, said he was familiar with Muir from his time in the service due to an "extensive history of police contact." He said officers involved in police shootings undergo an intense amount of scrutiny and "armchair quarterbacking."

The homicide unit will investigate the incident. An inquest will be mandated under the Fatality Inquiries Act to examine the circumstances.

Later this year, the investigation of shootings by city police will fall to a special unit under the soon-to-be-formed Manitoba Police Commission.

Commission members will be named later this spring, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said on Monday. The commission's investigative unit will be established later this year.

Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill said Monday he didn't have details on the shooting.

McCaskill said the decision not to release details was to protect the "integrity of the investigation."

"We believe in trying to get the information out as soon as we can but not at the expense of the investigation, so what I'm basically saying is that I let the investigators do what they should be doing," he said.


-- with files from Larry Kusch


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2010 A3

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