Ontario’s police watchdog says Ottawa police officers did not commit a crime when they shot and killed a 56-year-old man in the ByWard Market in June.
The incident began June 25, when police were called to St. Patrick Street near Parent Avenue on reports of a man who was allegedly brandishing a knife.
According to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) the victim (identified in the SIU report as the “Complainant”) was “of unsound mind at the time” and was “pacing in the area of the intersection, on at least one occasion speaking to his hand as if it were a cell phone,” while holding a kitchen knife in his other hand.
The first officer on the scene drew his gun and ordered the man to drop the knife. The SIU says the man did not and he began moving toward the officer.
SIU director Joseph Martino said the officer tried to calm the man down by asking his name and saying he was there to help.
“Regrettably, given his state of mind, the Complainant was unreceptive,” he wrote in his decision.
Several other officers arrived within moments of the first and also drew their guns, ordering the man to drop the knife.
One officer holstered his gun and fired his Taser, but the man kept moving and was then shot. One officer fired three shots and hit the man at least once. The other officer fired “five or six times, inflicting multiple wounds.”
Police attempted CPR and used a defibrillator on the man before paramedics arrived. He was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy found that he was killed by a gunshot to the chest.
The SIU interviewed seven civilian witnesses and two of the responding officers. The ones who shot and killed the man declined to be interviewed, as is their legal right, but did make their notes available.
Martino said, based on the evidence, there was no reasonable grounds to lay a criminal charge against either officer, saying their gunfire “constituted reasonable force in the circumstances” because events unfolded quickly.
“Unfortunately, the use of the (Taser) did not stop the Complainant’s advance, and the officers were left with little recourse but to use their firearms to protect themselves and each other,” Martino wrote. “A physical engagement would have placed their lives at risk of grievous bodily harm or death from the knife, as would a resort to other weapons at their disposal – OC spray or a baton – without the immediate stopping power of a firearm.”
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