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Man fatally shot by Winnipeg police was international student, lawyer says

The lawyer assisting the family of a man fatally shot by Winnipeg police on New Year’s Eve has confirmed the man’s identity.

Afolabi Stephen Opaso, 19, was an international student originally from Nigeria who was studying at the University of Manitoba, according to Jean-René-Dominique Kwilu, a Winnipeg lawyer.

Winnipeg police reported the shooting to the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) hours after it happened on Dec. 31 around 2:20 p.m. Police had been called to an apartment suite in the first 100 block of University Crescent for reports of a man acting erratically.

The IIU said two officers responded and found three people inside the suite. Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth told reporters on Monday one of the people, a 19-year-old man, was armed with two knives. Smyth said the officers, “were involved in a use of force encounter” and one of them shot the man.

Police said the man was taken to hospital in critical condition where he died of his injuries. The two other people in the suite were not injured.

Kwilu, said according to witnesses he has spoken to, Opaso was having a mental health episode when one of the people in the suite called 911.

“They made sure they said this was a mental health situation, that the person is their friend, you know, is not a danger to anyone. It was just they needed assistance,” Kwilu told CTV News.

“At this point, there’s no indication that Afolabi attacked the police, or anything like that.”

He said Opaso’s family, none of whom are in Winnipeg, is shocked and traumatized.

“They sent their son here to get an education now he has to return home in a coffin,” he said.

Kwilu said Opaso’s family have questions about how the situation was handled by police, and want to know why a mental health call ended with Opaso’s death. 

The IIU is investigating the shooting and is asking anyone with information to contact investigators. It said it will be requesting the Manitoba Police Commission appoint a civilian monitor as the matter involves a death. The IIU said no further details will be provided at this time.

CTV News will update this story.

-with files from CTV’s Alexandra Holyk  

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