'Pillar in our community': Head of Alberta food bank killed during police chase

'Pillar in our community'

A bystander killed in a hit-and-run during a high-speed police chase near Edmonton is being remembered for her unwavering dedication to helping those in need. 

Kassandra Gartner, 45, of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., was killed Saturday.

Police have said her vehicle was disabled by a police spike belt used during the chase. When she stopped and got out of her vehicle to check on the damage, she was struck by a truck police were pursuing.

Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Gale Katchur said she was notified the following day that Gartner was killed in the chase.

"(Gartner) has made a real impact in our community for people who are vulnerable ... always looking out for the needs of others," Katchur said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"She was a pillar in our community."

Gartner was executive director of the city's food bank for the past three years. She got her start there as a volunteer. 

The mother of three was recognized in 2023 for her work addressing food insecurity with the Changing the Face of Hunger award from Food Banks Alberta. 

"She was the heart and soul of our mission and the driving force for service to our community. Her unwavering dedication and compassion have left a mark not only on our clients and volunteers but on the entire community," Amanda Bell, president of the Fort Saskatchewan Food Gatherers Society, said in a statement. 

Police have said the pursuit began after RCMP in Beaumont, just south of Edmonton, tried to arrest a suspect in a parked truck. 

The driver sped off and later rammed an RCMP vehicle, they said. 

Police then deployed the spike belt, which disabled several civilian vehicles as well as the suspect's truck, which hit the woman. 

Police did not identify Gartner as the victim but said a 45-year-old woman from Fort Saskatchewan had stepped out of her car to see what happened and was hit.

They said the driver fled again, this time in a different vehicle with a child inside. The child was later found unharmed.

Officers found that stolen vehicle outside Edmonton on Monday, but have yet to find the suspect.  

Edmonton police and RCMP continue to investigate, while the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has launched an investigation into the police response.

Bell said the food bank is committed to continuing the vital work that Gartner "passionately" led. Their doors will remain open and services will continue. 

She said it's what Gartner would have wanted. 

"As we mourn her tragic passing and honour her legacy, we also celebrate the remarkable life of a woman who dedicated herself to making the world a better place."

A candlelight vigil was set to take place outside Fort Saskatchewan City Hall on Thursday evening.

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