A Toronto police officer shot an advancing 35-year-old man holding a knife in a Scarborough home last August to protect himself from an attack, the province’s police watchdog has found.
“The shooting, I am satisfied, constituted defensive force,” Joseph Martino, the director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), wrote in his report released Wednesday, concluding that there was no reason to file charges against the officer in connection with the Aug. 1 incident.
In the report, the SIU detailed what occurred that day using collected evidence, including interviews and video footage. The 35-year-old, designated as the complainant, and the officer, named the subject official (SO), declined to be interviewed for the investigation.
Shortly before 12:30 a.m., the SO and his partner, witness official #3 (WO#3), arrived at a house on Sherwood Avenue after a resident called police about how the complainant “had been behaving strangely” and sent a threatening text to his roommate.
The two officers met the resident outside before they were let in. The SIU said the resident told officers that the complainant came out of the bathroom after a couple of hours with a knife and threatened to cut their roommate.
The officers then went to the basement and made their way cautiously down a corridor with their conductive energy weapons (CEW) drawn. When they made it about halfway to the end of the hallway, the complainant emerged from a room with a knife in his right hand, the SIU said.
It caused the two officers to backtrack several steps, and the SO fired his CEW.
“The Complainant appeared unaffected; he remained standing with the knife in hand,” the SIU said. The two officers then repeatedly ordered the complainant to drop the knife and, at the same time, drew their guns.
“The Complainant squared up at the officers, yelled something in anger, and took a step towards the SO. The SO fired his weapon four times in quick succession,” the SIU said.
It stopped the complainant from stepping forward and remained standing for a second before he fled into another room. The two officers followed and found him on a bed, bleeding due to multiple gunshot wounds.
The SIU said the officers placed him in a recovery position until paramedics arrived. Paramedics took the complainant to the hospital with injuries to his hands and torso.
“Though the officer did not come in for an interview, as was his right, the circumstances make plain that the SO fired his weapon to protect himself from a knife attack by the Complainant,” SIU Director Martino wrote in his analysis.
“The Complainant was holding a knife, had failed to drop it as directed, and was advancing on the officer when the SO discharged his firearm. Tellingly, WO #3, who was similarly situated to the SO, told the SIU he feared for their lives when the shooting happened.”
As for the number of shots fired, Martino said he was satisfied that they amounted to reasonable force. The director noted that the complainant withstood the CEW deployment and was within three or four metres of the officer when he got shot.
“The parties were confined within a narrow hallway at the time, and there was little if any opportunity for retreat or withdrawal by the officers,” Martino said. “On this record, I am persuaded that the Complainant constituted an imminent danger to the lives of the officers and that the SO was within his rights when he chose to meet a lethal threat with a resort to lethal force of his own.”
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