Alberta’s police watchdog says two members of the Edmonton Police Service used force that “was reasonable given all of the circumstances” when they shot a 37-year-old man suspected of being responsible for a residential break-in in the west end of the city two-and-a-half years go.
“While it is unfortunate that the man sustained an injury during his arrest, his actions in rapidly exiting the residence while armed created a situation of significant potential risk,” the Albera Serious Incident Response Team said in a news release issued Thursday.
“As that situation unfolded, it presented the involved officers with a reasonable apprehension that their own and other lives were endangered.”
On Oct. 20, 2017, at about 2:30 p.m., police were dispatched to a reported break-in at a west Edmonton house in the area of 171 Street and 83 Avenue.
“The caller provided a description of the individual, and indicated that he had gained access to the residence by breaking a window,” ASIRT said. “Several minutes later, EPS received a second 911 call from the man inside the residence, indicating he was the individual police were looking for, warning police to back off and indicating that he had a person inside the residence with him.
“The man hung up, but placed additional 911 calls delivering a similar warning.”
According to ASIRT, the EPS tactical unit was then dispatched to the scene and a negotiator began speaking with the man in the home. He eventually determined the man did not have anybody with him and that he was armed with a shotgun.
“The man was instructed not to exit the residence with the shotgun, as this would be perceived as a lethal threat,” ASIRT said, adding the suspect indicated he understood the instruction.
“As negotiations continued, EPS observed the man removing a screen from a window on the upper floor of the residence, and placing a doll in the window,” the police watchdog noted.
However, at one point, ASIRT said the suspect emerged from the home and started walking towards the neighbour’s driveway with a shotgun in his hand. Police ordered the man to drop his gun but ASIRT said he ignored them.
“The man yelled back at the armoured vehicle, indicating that he would not drop the firearm,” ASIRT said. “Several officers located outside of the vehicle proceeded to use non-lethal options to separate the man from the shotgun.
“Several flash-bang devices were deployed.”
At the same time, ASIRT said another officer fired a “non-lethal launcher” at the suspect. The watchdog said the suspect was hit by one of the rounds and his “shotgun began to rise as he fell to the ground.”
“Seeing that the man was still in a position to fire the shotgun, when the barrel of the man’s shotgun came level with officers, two officers fired a total of three shots from carbine rifles,” ASIRT said. “One of these shots struck the man, who fell to the ground, dropping the gun.”
According to ASIRT, officers then seized the suspect’s shotgun as well as a replica handgun. He was then taken to hospital and treated for a “superficial gunshot wound.”
ASIRT said its investigation concluded that “the man’s unexpected exit from the residence where he had barricaded himself, while holding a firearm that he had previously demonstrated he was willing to use, created a situation of significant and immediate risk.”
“Despite this risk, the officers initially attempted to address the threat through non-lethal means,” the police watchdog said. “When the barrel of the man’s firearm rose during the encounter, it created a danger that exposed several police officers to a risk of imminent death or grievous bodily harm.
“The risk was objectively serious and immediate, and while the man’s intentions are unknown as he declined to provide a voluntary statement, the dangers presented by pointing a loaded firearm are indisputable.
“Faced with this danger, both officers were lawfully entitled to act in defence of themselves and the other officers on scene.”
ASIRT is called on to investigate incidents involving law enforcement officers in Alberta that result in serious injury or death. It also looks into serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.
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