Inquiry into 2014 police shooting death to be held; date not yet known

By Charles Lefebvre
May 16, 2019 - 3:44pm Updated: May 16, 2019 - 7:10pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB — A public fatality inquiry will be held in the case of a 2014 police shooting involving a member of the Medicine Hat Police Service.

According to the public fatality inquiry schedule on the Government of Alberta’s website, an inquiry into the death of Christopher Arkell, 50, has been added to the schedule, though a date and location has not been set.

Arkell was shot and killed by a Medicine Hat Police officer on March 22, 2014 following a standoff at a rural property just outside of the Medicine Hat city limits.

Police were responding to a missing person report for Chester Hunchak, a local businessman. A Cadillac Escalade belonging to Hunchak was spotted by an officer on the property, where Arkell was living.

When police arrived, Arkell allegedly pointed a firearm at the officer, forcing him to retreat. Redcliff RCMP and Medicine Hat Police were called in to contain the scene. While officers communicated with Arkell, he allegedly threatened to kill police and innocent people.

During the standoff, Arkell was seen  moving Hunchak’s body on the property. Arkell entered the Escalade and drove toward police while trying to escape, but was shot and killed by a Medicine Hat Police Officer.

Prior to the shooting, Arkell was due in court on several charges, including fraud and failure to appear, according to the Calgary Herald.

An investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team in 2014 determined the actions of the officer were justified.

Few details about the case have been released publicly, including Hunchak’s cause of death.

According to the RCMP, who handled the investigation, the case is expected to be finished soon.

“What I’ve been told by MCU, our Major Crimes Unit, was it was just about concluded and closed, and Arkell was responsible for the death of Hunchak,” said Corporal Jon Cormier, South District Media Relations Officer with the RCMP, though he could not provide an answer on when the case would officially be closed, and more information would be released.

During the investigation, RCMP were also looking at the possibility of others being involved in Hunchak’s death or the circumstances surrounding his death, but Cormier says at this point, there are no other charges pending.

“At this point, there is nobody else charged or looking at (charges) for the Major Crimes perspective,” he said.

In order for a public fatality inquiry to happen, police and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner need to have completed their investigations, courts need to resolve any outstanding criminal charges and appeals and a pre-inquiry conference needs to be completed, according to the Fatality Inquiry office.

CHAT News reached out to the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General for an interview, but instead received a statement.

“This particular file was added to the public fatality inquiry agenda on May 8, 2019,” the statement reads. “No two cases are the same, each requires different amounts of time to complete each of the steps that may lead to a public fatality inquiry hearing.”

Inquiries are held before provincial judges, who release a report to the public and the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General. The report cannot make findings of legal responsibility, but may make recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths from occurring.

Cannabis allowed at campgrounds in and around Medicine Hat