Family wants justice for Edmonton man killed in 2021 police shooting

Steven Nguyen was holding a cellphone and not a firearm when police shot him multiple times on June 5, 2021.

The Edmonton man’s family is frustrated to only now be learning about the circumstances surrounding the 33-year-old’s death.

The new information comes after the family, including Nguyen’s three-year-old daughter, launched a $1-million lawsuit against the Edmonton Police Service and the two officers involved: Const. Alex Doduk and Const. Mukul Chaudhary.

Read more: ASIRT seeking witnesses, footage of fatal north Edmonton police shooting

The statement of claim argues such force was “unreasonable.” It also says the death of Nguyen was caused “as a result of the negligence of Const. Doduk.”

Nguyen was walking in a neighbourhood near his home when the encounter occurred.

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When a statement of defence was filed by Edmonton police chief Dale McFee, it was the first time the family heard the police service’s account of what happened the night Nguyen died.

In the statement of defence, McFee writes that at around 11 p.m. on June 5, police dispatch received a complaint from a person who said he saw a man carrying a knife attached to a screwdriver.

Doduk and Chaudhary saw a man matching the description of the suspect. The statement of defence says Nguyen emerged from the shadows behind a tree.

Officers saw Nguyen was carrying a black plastic bag containing bottles and cans, and had an item with a handle sticking out of his pocket.

Nguyen told police he was picking bottles. The officers told him they were investigating a weapons complaint, and he matched the description of the suspect.

The statement of defence goes on to say that Nguyen reached his hand in his pocket containing the object with a handle. Chaudhary told Nguyen to take his hand out of his pocket. Nguyen walked back into the shadows, but did not remove his hand from his pocket, the statement of defence reads.

As a precautionary measure, Doduk drew his service pistol and held it at the “low and ready” position, pointed at the ground.

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The statement of defence says Nguyen became highly agitated and stepped further back into the shadows while yelling, “No, no, no, get back — I’ll kill you,” or words to that effect.

The court document states Nguyen drew a black rectangular object from his pocket which had a silver or lighter colour circle on the front. Nguyen brandished the object toward Doduk and Chaudhary in his hand, fully extended.

The statement of defence goes on to say Doduk believed the object drawn was a firearm, and yelled, “Gun! Drop it!” Nguyen rapidly shifted and rotated his body to the left, and kept pointing the object at officers.

According to the statement, Doduk believed Nguyen was about to shoot. He raised his pistol and fired six shots at Nguyen. Some or all shots of the shots hit Nguyen, who died as a result of the gunshot wounds he sustained.

The statement of defence says officers then learned the object that had been brandished by Nguyen was a phone, not a gun.

Read more: Family of father killed by police in north Edmonton desperate for answers

“We have been completely devastated and traumatized since losing Steven,” the Nguyen family said in a statement issued to Global News. “He left behind brokenhearted parents, parents who can’t even look out their front window because it happened across from their home.

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“He left behind a three-year-old daughter who will grow up without her dad; nephews and a niece who… will not grow up with their uncle, and that will eventually know that their uncle died by the hands of the police — the ones who are supposed to serve and protect us.”

The family said it cannot understand how this could happen and said Nguyen was not carrying a weapon.

They questioned why Doduk discharged his firearm six times, and how he could not see the difference between a cellphone and gun. The family said it is also struggling with the fact it had to wait for a statement of defence to get some answers.

Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel’s office filed the lawsuit. He described the events as shocking.

“It was described in the statement of defence as a black rectangular object, with a light colour in the middle,” Engel said.

“Well that is an iPhone — and everybody knows what an iPhone is — and how that could be mistaken for a firearm is unbelievable.”

Engel said he is also frustrated with police not telling the public that Nguyen did not pull out a gun.

“They knew it was a cellphone, and they didn’t disclose it,” he said.

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“If it was mistaken for a firearm, that was a very bad mistake, and I understand this area was well-lit. Police officers have flashlights, they have spotlights on their car. How could this happen? And how could a police officer walking around with a gun shoot somebody in those circumstances… it should have been obvious this was not a firearm.”

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is tasked with investigating such cases. The organization said the investigation is ongoing and is “nearing completion.”

The EPS declined an interview request and said the matter is before the courts.

The statement of claim said the chief is vicariously liable for the negligence of Doduk, in part, by failing to ensure that Doduk was properly trained and mentally fit for duty as a police officer.

The chief is requesting that the action against him be dismissed.

None of the allegations in either the statement of claim or the statement of defence have been proven in court.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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