Project Embrace Makes 6 Arrests,
$1 Million in Seizures
Edmonton… A drug trafficking network that spanned Alberta and British Columbia has been dismantled. ALERT’s Project Embrace has resulted in the arrest of six suspects and the seizure of over $1 million worth of drugs and cash.
Project Embrace was a nine-month investigation that targeted all facets of the suspected criminal network’s operation, including supply, distribution, and street-level sales. ALERT Edmonton’s organized crime team led the investigation with the assistance of British Columbia’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and Bonnyville RCMP.
More than six kilograms of cocaine and two kilograms of methamphetamine were seized, along with more than $342,000 in cash. In addition, half a dozen suspects were charged, with the most recent arrests taking place in late June 2019.
Project Embrace collected evidence to suggest an Edmonton-based group coordinated the supply of drugs from British Columbia, and then facilitated distribution in Alberta – specifically in the communities of Bonnyville, Lloydminster, St. Paul, Cold Lake, Little Smoky and Frog Lake.
Investigators allege that Matthew Castle was at the centre of the Edmonton group, which involved family members and associates. Castle allegedly conspired with B.C.-based David Davinder Lally and Jacob Fralin to import drugs into Alberta.
Six homes were searched, including four in Edmonton and two Vancouver apartments. In total, investigators seized:
- 6.5 kilograms of cocaine;
- 2 kilograms of methamphetamine;
- 18 kilograms of a cocaine buffing agent;
- $342,982 cash; and
- a 2007 Volvo XC90 with a hidden mechanized compartment.
The following suspects were each charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs, in addition to a range of other offences:
- Matthew Castle, 29, from Edmonton;
- Terri Lynn Castle, 50, from Edmonton
- Christian Castle-Wasson, 18, from Edmonton;
- David Davinder Lally, 40, from Vancouver;
- Jacob Fralin, 32, from Vancouver; and
- Ryan Rautiainen, 26, from Lloydminster.
Project Embrace began in October 2018 when Bonnyville RCMP developed criminal intelligence about drug trafficking taking place in the area.
In conjunction with Project Embrace, Bonnyville RCMP arrested a number of street-level dealers in separate investigations. Each of the following was charged with multiple counts of drug trafficking:
- Charlie Houle, 24, from Bonnyville;
- Brent Coell, 18, from Bonnyville;
- Rayden Hill, 22, from Bonnyville;
- Michael Pownall, 36, from Bonnyville;
- Britney Coulombe, 27, from Bonnyville;
- Wayne Friesen, 27, from Bonnyville;
- Tyanna John, 21, from Bonnyville; and
- Dustin Gellerman, 27, from Bonnyville.
A number of other police agencies were involved in Project Embrace, including Edmonton Police Service, Vancouver Police Department, RCMP K-Division, Kamloops RCMP, Lloydminster RCMP, Cold Lake RCMP, Elk Point RCMP, Kitscoty RCMP and St. Paul RCMP.
Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.
ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime. Members of Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Lethbridge Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service, and RCMP work in ALERT.
Memphis braces for release of video in Tyre Nichols’ arrest
By Adrian Sainz in Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Memphis and the nation on Friday awaited the release of a police video depicting five officers viciously beating Tyre Nichols, a Black man whose death prompted murder charges against the cops and outrage at the country’s latest instance of police brutality.
The officers were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes in the killing of Nichols, a motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told a news conference that although the officers each played different rolesin the killing, “they are all responsible.”
The officers, who are all Black, each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Nichols’ family members and their lawyers said the footage shows officers savagely beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes in an assault that the legal team likened to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King. His family urged supporters to protest peacefully.
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis said she expected protests after the release of video showing officers’ actions, which she described as “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” but she also urged the community to remain peaceful.
“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand actions and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process,” she said. “None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”
Davis said Friday that her department has been unable to substantiate the reckless driving allegation that prompted the stop.
“As far as I know today, I do believe that the stop itself was very questionable,” she told Good Morning America.
Video of the Jan. 7 traffic stop will be released to the public sometime Friday evening, Mulroy said, noting that local and state investigators wanted to complete as many interviews as possible before releasing it.
Davis told GMA that the decision to release the video on Friday evening rather than earlier in the day had been made after consulting with other local leaders, who believe it’s best to do it when schools are out and people are home from work.
As a precaution, Memphis area schools canceled all after-class activities and postponed a school event scheduled for Saturday morning.
Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told The Associated Press by phone that he and his wife, RowVaughn Wells, who is Nichols’ mother, discussed the second-degree murder charges and are “fine with it.” They had sought first-degree murder charges.
“There’s other charges, so I’m all right with that,” he said.
The Wellses were joined by several dozen supporters on a cold Thursday night for a candlelight vigil and prayer service at a Memphis skate park. Nichols, who had a 4-year-old son, was an avid skateboarder.
RowVaughn Wells, who said her family is “grief-stricken,” warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video set to be released Friday, but like Davis, pleaded for peaceful protests.
“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”
Activists and clergy led the group in prayer and a drummer played a steady rhythm to lead into the spoken part of the vigil. Afterward, skaters rode their boards as the Wellses watched.
Court records showed that all five former officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — were taken into custody.
Martin’s lawyer, William Massey, confirmed that his client had turned himself in. He and Mills’ lawyer, Blake Ballin, said their clients would plead not guilty. Lawyers for Smith, Bean and Haley could not be reached.
“No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die,” Massey said.
Both lawyers said they had not seen the video.
“We are in the dark about many things, just like the general public is,” Ballin said.
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
The attorneys for Nichols’ family, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, issued a statement saying that Nichols “lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop.”
At the White House, President Joe Biden said the Nichols family and the city of Memphis deserve “a swift, full and transparent investigation.”
“Public trust is the foundation of public safety, and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken,” Biden said in a statement.
Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she said “a complete and independent review” will be conducted of the department’s specialized units, without providing further details.
Two fire department workers were also removed from duty over the Nichols’ arrest.
As state and federal investigations continue, Davis promised the police department’s “full and complete cooperation” to determine what contributed to Nichols’ Jan. 10 death.
Crump said the video showed that Nichols was shocked, pepper-sprayed and restrained when he was pulled over near his home. He was returning home from a suburban park where he had taken photos of the sunset.
Police have said Nichols was stopped for reckless driving and at some point fled from the scene.
Relatives have accused the police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said Nichols experienced a medical emergency.
One of the officers, Haley, was accused previously of using excessive force. He was named as a defendant in a 2016 federal civil rights lawsuit while employed by the Shelby County Division of Corrections.
The claims were ultimately dismissed after a judge ruled that Sledge had failed to file a grievance against the officers within 30 days of the incident.
Associated Press reporters Aaron Morrison in New York, Travis Loller in Nashville and Rebecca Reynolds in Lexington, Kentucky, contributed to this report.
Alberta spiritual community leader charged with four counts of sexual assault
Photo from Johnderuiter.com
Edmonton – A self-styled spiritual leader has been charged with four counts of sexual assault stemming from separate occasions between 2017 and 2020.
Police say Johannes de Ruiter, the leader of an Edmonton group known as the College of Integrated Philosophy or the Oasis Group, was arrested Saturday.
Edmonton police allege that de Ruiter, who is 63, would tell certain female members that he was directed by a spirit to engage in sexual activity with them, and that doing so would provide them with the opportunity to achieve spiritual enlightenment.
The group operated out of a building in an industrial area in northwest Edmonton from 2007 to 2021.
Before his arrest, de Ruiter was holding meetings at an office building in St. Albert, Alta., and would host spiritual retreats out of a campground near Smith, Alta., a hamlet more than 200 kilometres north of Edmonton.
Police say in a news release that investigators believe there may be additional victims and are encouraging them to come forward to police.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2023.
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