Federal scientists predict high wildfire risk across Western Canada

Federal scientists predict high wildfire risk across Western Canada

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Police in southern Alberta are being investigated after a restaurant worker in a “Star Wars” stormtrooper costume who was carrying a plastic gun was forced to the ground and ended up with a bloody nose.

“All the signs say ‘Star Wars.’ The music that was playing in the parking lot was ‘Star Wars,’” said Brad Whalen, owner of the Coco Vanilla Galactic Cantina in Lethbridge.

“If a duck’s a duck, it’s a duck, right. It should have been common sense and it should have stopped there.”

Whalen said the 19-year-old employee of the “Star Wars”-themed restaurant had agreed to carry a toy blaster and wear the elaborate white uniform of the soldier of the Galactic Empire to get the attention of people celebrating May 4. The day is popular among fans of the movie franchise because of the famous line, “may the force be with you.”

The restaurant, which serves Jabba the Gut pizza and Yoda soda, opened at the end of January and has been struggling due to restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently open again, Whalen was hoping to get some attention by having a stormtrooper walking out front of the business.

It got attention, just not the kind he was looking for.

The Lethbridge Police Service said officers were called to the restaurant Monday morning for reports of a person in a stormtrooper costume carrying a firearm. A news release Tuesday said when officers arrived, the person dropped the weapon but didn’t initially comply with directions to get down on the ground.

Whalen disputes the account that his employee didn’t obey police commands. When officers arrived, she immediately dropped the weapon and put her hands up, he said.

But Whalen said that the stormtrooper helmet makes it hard to hear and to be heard. It also makes it difficult to move, let alone to kneel or get down on your stomach. Whalen said this may have caused a delay in the employee getting on the ground.

“It’s not the easiest thing to kneel down in. You can’t even sit down in it. It takes 20 minutes to put on.”

Whalen said by that time, police should have been aware that the gun was wasn’t real and went with the costume.

A video of the encounter, shared on social media, shows an officer standing by the blaster while Whalen yells from the restaurant door that it’s fake.

“It should have been common sense and it should have stopped there. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. The police chose to escalate it,” Whalen said.

Officers forced the employee on to her stomach and she hit her face and her nose started to bleed, said Whalen. In the video, a woman can be heard crying.

Police Chief Scott Woods has reviewed the file and received additional information, including the online video, the police release said. He has directed a service investigation into the officers’ conduct and whether they acted appropriately.

The woman in the costume was not charged.

Whalen said he’s been contacted by lawyers and is looking at different options.

He said something needs to change in police training to ensure situations aren’t unnecessarily escalated.

All employees of the restaurant have been impacted by the encounter, he said, none more so than the woman in the costume.

“Ironically enough, she wasn’t a ‘Star Wars’ fan,” Whalen said. ”I don’t think she will be a ‘Star Wars’ fan … if we had any chance to convert her.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2020

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rimbey Christian School building projects nearing completion

New gym, soccer field and skating rink will be open to community use as well

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

Kelowna RCMP Stock Image.
Bentley post office damaged, armed robbery at Subway

Sylvan Lake RCMP respond to incidents in Bentley last month

James Taylor of Rimbey has won $100,000 from a scratch ticket. (Photo submitted)
Rimbey winner scratches his way to $100,000 prize

James Taylor says store staff were almost more excited than he was

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Most Read