A former rookie Peel Regional Police officer has been sentenced to 18 months probation after pleading guilty to careless use of a firearm in the 2020 Mother’s Day shooting of a Black woman in Mississauga.
A Brampton judge said the act “can negatively impact racialized communities,” although, the judge added, there’s “no evidence,” the “incident was racially motivated.”
Valerie Briffa, 32, a now retired Peel Regional police officer, who shot Chantelle Krupka, then 34, was served the conditional discharge by Superior Court Justice Hugh Fraser, who said he believed Briffa mistakenly pulled her firearm, thinking it was her Taser and deemed the punishment to be appropriate in the “highly unusual and somewhat unique set of circumstances.”
Briffa stood up in the Brampton court to read an apology to Krupka, saying “Chantelle, please know that my actions were not racially motivated,” adding that “what happened was an accident. You did not deserve what happened to you.”
“I’m ashamed and I’m angry with myself,” Briffa said. “After discharging what I believe to be my Taser, I remember locking eyes with you, as you asked why did you shoot me.”
The York University criminology, human rights and equity studies graduate said she “realized, to my horror, that I was holding my gun.
“I wish I did more to stop things from escalating,” said Briffa, who has volunteered for and worked with a string of community agencies, including Safe City Mississauga.
Reading from the agreed statement of facts, provincial prosecutor Ian Bulmer said that, on the night of May 10, 2020, Briffa, a probationary constable, who was sworn in only three months earlier and Const. Tyler Bell-Morena responded to a call, from Krupka’s ex-partner, of an alleged harassment related to a custody issue. The officers went to Krupka’s residence to issue a warning about text messages sent to her ex-partner.
Bulmer said Krupka “was argumentative and confronted Const. Briffa about bothering her on Mother’s Day.”
She declined to present herself outside. Bell-Morena then pointed his cruiser headlights at the home. Krupka called police dispatch to report that she was being harassed by the officers and requested a supervisor.
Krupka went to the front porch, yelling at the officers to stay away from her. After an argument ensued, Const Bell-Morena informed Krupka that she was under arrest. Krupka’s partner Michael Headley tried to intervene and was Tasered.
Headley fell to the ground. Briffa, who also had her Taser drawn, reholstered it in order to assist in handcuffing Headley, Bulmer said. Krupka was also Tasered, but stood back up.
“At that point Const. Briffa pulled her handgun, erroneously believing it was her conducted energy weapon (or Taser) pointed it at Ms. Krupka and fired one round, striking Ms. Krupka in the right hip area, causing her to fall,” Bulmer read from the agreed facts.
Const. Bell Morena asked Briffa, “why she did that and he received no response,” Bulmer said. Bell-Morena began first-aid on Krupka. The bullet caused a fracture to Krupka’s right hip ball socket as well as bleeding in her abdominal wall. Surgery removed most but not all the bullet fragments.
Krupka who was present in the courtroom, yelled, “You’re a liar. You shot me while I was flat on my back.”
Justice Hughes warned her to refrain from disrupting the proceedings.
“That’s why I hate you,” Krupka said to Briffa.
“I was Tasered for no reason,” Headley chimed in.
They were subsequently removed from the courtroom.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the province’s police watchdog, had charged Briffa with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and careless use of a firearm.
Bulmer said there was no reasonable prospect of conviction on the criminal negligence charge. Both that and the charge of assault with a weapon charge were withdrawn.
After hearing from both lawyers, Justice Hughes said “In almost 30 years on the bench I can’t recall a more earnest display of remorse.
“That was a very powerful factor in arriving at this sentence.”
Hughes said that “mistakes involving the deployment of a gun, instead of a Taser are rare, but they have happened,” and he added that “in the dynamics of a volatile situation, an error was made.”
Hughes said he considered a variety of mitigating circumstances, including the early plea of guilty, 82 letters serving as character references and Briffa’s significant community service. Briffa also resigned from the police force seven weeks after the shooting.
“This is an individual, who seems to have spent much of her adult life preparing for a career in policing,” Hughes, a Black judge, said of a work history he called exemplary.
He also found Briffa’s public apology to be “extremely sincere and believable.”
Hughes said it did not diminish the “impact of the injuries and the trauma that Ms. Krupka experienced,” saying her physical injuries were significant.
Briffa is ordered to keep the peace, be of good behaviour and not to communicate with Krupka or be within 150 metres of anywhere Krupka is known to live. She’s also to perform 150 hours of community service, report to a probation officer and is prohibited from possessing weapons.
Krupka declined to participate in the sentencing and did not contribute a victim impact statement.
This content was originally published here.