No charges for Winnipeg officers who killed man in one of 3 shootings last April: police watchdog

Manitoba’s police watchdog says no charges will be laid against any of the officers involved in a domestic violence call last April that led to the shooting death of a 36-year-old man.

The shooting death of Jason Collins was one of three fatal police shootings in Winnipeg involving an Indigenous person over a 10-day span in April 2020. It’s the second for which the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba has said no officer will be charged.

According to the police watchdog’s final report, which was released on Wednesday, officers responding to a 911 call about a possible domestic violence incident arrived at a house on Anderson Avenue around 4:38 a.m. on April 9.

Police told the Independent Investigation Unit that officers heard a woman screaming inside the house and forced their way inside, the report says.

When they got in, officers found a man with a gun, whom police did not identify, but who family members said was Jason Collins.

The officers then left the house and surrounded it, trying to talk to Collins, according to the report.

He walked out the front door toward police, still carrying the gun, which he aimed at officers, the report says. Police opened fire, shooting Collins three times.

He was taken to Health Sciences Centre, where he was pronounced dead. 

Police later discovered that the weapon he had was a BB gun.

“It was a reasonable and honest belief that [there was] a real likelihood” that Collins “could have delivered a potentially lethal injury with his firearm,” Independent Investigation Unit civilian director Zane Tessler wrote in his report, adding that the BB gun looked like a lethal firearm.

Tessler said the evidence reviewed — which included officers’ notes and cellphone video from a civilian witness — supports the conclusion that the officers’ decision to open fire was “necessary in order to prevent the injury or death of any or all of them and all other police officers in the vicinity.”

Police said Collins was armed and pointed a weapon at them when he left his house. Officers later discovered the weapon was a BB gun. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The report adds that the police officers involved didn’t agree to interviews with the police watchdog, but instead provided prepared statements.

Tessler recommended no charges against the officers, concluding that “the use of lethal force by the subject officers was justified and unavoidable,” and Collins’s action of “walk[ing] at police with a weapon pointed at them in an outstretched arm and scanning around, lends ample support to this conclusion.”

‘He was so loving’

CBC News has attempted to reach Collins’s family for comment on Wednesday’s report.

Last year, Collins’s daughter and her mother told CBC that they thought he was holding a BB gun, and they disputed some of the information made public by police at that point.

His daughter, Tianna Rasmussen, acknowledged that there was an argument between her parents the night Collins was shot, but says nobody was in danger.

The scream police heard was her trying to protect her dad from the police, she said.

Collins’s three children honoured their father during a vigil last year, which was held outside the house where he was shot to death by police two days prior. (Dana Hatherly/CBC)

“I thought that my dad was going to die right in front of me,” Rasmussen said. “I was just screaming at the cops … ‘Please, don’t shoot him.'” 

Shortly after his death, Rasmussen and her mother held a vigil for Collins.

“He was so loving,” she said. “He’s my dad, and I know him.… [he was] the best dad.”

This is the second fatal police shooting dating from last April in which the Independent Investigation Unit — which is mandated to investigate all serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba — recommended no charges.

In January, the investigative unit released its report on the April 8, 2020, shooting of 16-year-old Eishia Hudson, following a liquor store robbery and high-speed chase. It said no charges would be laid against the officer who fatally shot her.

That led a number of legal experts and Indigenous leaders to question the ability of Manitoba’s police watchdog to hold law enforcement to account.

Manitoba’s chief medical examiner later called an inquest into her death.

The police watchdog hasn’t yet released its report on the death of Stewart Kevin Andrews, who was shot by police after officers responded to a report of a robbery and windows being broken on April 19, 2020.

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