NL police chartered $91K flight for suspected killer who is banned from advertising

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has chartered a private flight to get accused murderer Sheldon Hibbs back to St. John’s from Calgary in March, according to documents obtained by CBC News. Police said he had been banned from flying commercially.

Hibbs, 27, was arrested March 11 in Calgary on a Canada-wide arrest warrant for second-degree murder in the death of Michael King, 68. King’s body was discovered on a path between Waterford Valley High School and Holbrook Avenue in the West. from St. John’s on May 30, 2021.

Documents obtained through a request for access to information show that the RNC was in the process of returning Hibbs to Newfoundland after two of its officers went to Alberta to do so.

At one point, the police even considered paying for a WestJet Boeing 737 for more than $130,000.

“With regard to chartering an aircraft, even if we were able to accommodate such notice, it is extremely expensive, so we recommend contacting the RCMP as they may have aircraft available that better suited to this type of transportation,” a WestJet representative wrote.

The police replied that urgent transport was needed.

“The man has been charged with murder. We understand that it may be expensive to charter, but the time frame for the RCMP aircraft is not working for us given the time constraints to ensure the man appears in court quickly. So we are currently looking at all available options,” replied Const. Jamie Caroll.

Banned on commercial flights

The RNC has requested multiple quotes for private flights and sent them to the provincial government for approval, according to emails.

The provincial government and RNC eventually chose EVAS Air of Gander to operate the charter at a cost of $91,885.

In an emailed statement, an RNC spokesperson said police were forced to look at other options after an incident that occurred during their first attempt to get Hibbs back to St. John’s.

“As a result of an event during the first attempt by RNC officers to transport Hibbs into RNC jurisdiction, Hibbs was banned from commercially operated flights,” wrote RNC Const. James Cadigan.

Cadigan said he could not explain what happened during the first attempt to hand over Hibbs, as the case is in court.

In a statement, Air Canada said it has a “zero tolerance policy for any kind of disruption, including disruptive behavior,” for which the airline says it has “well-established procedures” to work with local authorities.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was called to a wooded area of ​​the Waterford Valley in the western end of St. John’s in May 2021, where officers discovered King’s body. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

RCMP Alberta spokesman Logan Fraser confirmed that the RNC requested their assistance after Hibbs was taken off the flight for being “unruly”.

Fraser said it’s a request the RCMP would normally grant. However, he said there would have been multiple stops along the way involving different provinces and divisions.

It would have taken “a lot of time and effort,” Fraser said, and it was not clear whether the RCMP would be able to return Hibbs to the county in time.

Internal emails between the RNC and the provincial government highlighted the RNC’s main concerns.

In response to questions from an official at the province, Insp. Tom Warren said time was of the essence and Hibbs needed to be transferred immediately to protect his charter rights.

“The argument could be that we are unlawfully detaining a person,” Warren wrote. He said the RNC had consulted two prosecutors.

Warren said a county court judge in Newfoundland and Labrador would not be able to take a suspect into custody at an Alberta facility.

“We have been exploring with legal counsel the possibility of extending the six-day pre-trial detention and also having the person appear via video/phone from Alberta. We have been informed that this is not an option under these circumstances,” Warren said. †

Cadigan said Calgary police arrested Hibbs but the RNC had to carry out the order. He said the law requires that a suspect be returned no more than six days before returning to the jurisdiction where the crime is said to have taken place.

Prisoner transfers are often done on commercial flights

According to Michael Arntfield, a Western University criminology professor and former police officer, it’s unusual for a police force to charter a private jet.

He noted that inmates regularly travel with police officers on commercial flights.

Most members of the public would never know, because the process is often “executed fairly well,” Arntfield said.

NL police chartered $91K flight for suspected killer who is banned from advertising
Michael Arntfield – a former police officer, author and professor of criminology at Western University – says it’s unusual for a police force to charter a private jet. (the national)

“I can’t speak about the RNC’s budget or how it normally disburses its funds, but I can tell you that an expense like this is closely monitored by a municipal police department,” he said.

“Again, they may have house money to play with. The question then is, was this the optimal use of that excess money? And frankly I’m not sure or I’d be skeptical that any law enforcement agency has excess money these days.”

Cadigan said Hibbs was returned to the province within the time frame set out in Canada’s Criminal Code.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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