Watchdog closes investigation into RCMP officer who fatally shot hitchhiker accused of stabbing driver: IIU
An RCMP officer will not face charges for fatally shooting a man in 2021 during a police response to reports of a stabbing allegedly done by a hitchhiker in a community south of Lake Manitoba.
Zane Tessler, civilian director of the Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), found no reasonable grounds to support charges against the officer in connection with the shooting of the man on Dec. 15 in the community of WestLake-Gladstone, according to an IIU report released on Tuesday.
RCMP told media at the time the stabbing stemmed from an incident in which a man and woman picked up a male hitchhiker in the area that morning.
The man allegedly attacked and stabbed the driver without provocation. The driver pulled over and the hitchhiker ran away, according to a RCMP news release on Dec. 16, 2021. The driver was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Police were called about the stabbing in an area off Highway 16 in Westbourne, located about 30 kilometres northwest of Portage la Prairie in the rural municipality of WestLake-Gladstone at about 9 a.m. on Dec. 15.
Officers from RCMP detachments in Portage la Prairie, Amaranth and Neepawa responded to a tip of a suspicious man trying to break into vehicles at the junction of Highway 50 and Highway 16.
They found the man and said he was carrying a knife. RCMP said the man was then shot during a confrontation and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The IIU, which investigates all serious cases involving police in Manitoba, took over the investigation.
The unit reviewed:
- An RCMP summary of events.
- RCMP members’ notes and narratives.
- RCMP members’ supplementary reports.
- Audio of 911 call to RCMP.
- Audio recordings of RCMP radio communications.
- Forensic identification service reports.
- Photographs of the scene, individuals and exhibits.
- Video recording of the shooting scene.
- Pathology and toxicology reports concerning the affected person.
- A firearm service report concerning the RCMP officer who shot the man.
- A summary of firearm training and qualification test results for the officer.
- An expert opinion report on the use of lethal force.
IIU investigators also interviewed six civilians, though none saw the shooting.
Nine RCMP officers were designated as witnesses, not including the one who fired the gun. One RCMP witness described the machete at the scene, with a 46-centimetre long blade, as “almost a samurai sword.”
Victim has ‘serious stab wounds’ to face: RCMP
The IIU review of video surveillance footage appears to support versions of events from� RCMP witnesses and the officer who fired the gun as described in their notes.
That officer, a member of the service since 2009, responded to the driver who had been stabbed and noted numerous “serious stab wounds to his face,” according to the IIU report.
He and another officer then followed up on the tip about a suspicious man and found the suspect about five kilometres away. The officer gave verbal commands through his vehicle loudhailer, the IIU said, ordering the man to stop because he was under arrest.
“However, [the suspect] walked away from them as it appeared he was talking to himself…. [His] behaviour appeared erratic with [the officer] believing that he might be having a mental health episode,” the IIU report states.
The man then pulled out a machete from his coat and charged at the vehicle, jumping onto the hood of the officer’s SUV and raising the knife overhead, according to the report.
The officer feared for his safety and drew his firearm. He pointed it at the suspect through the windshield, and the man then slashed at the window, according to the IIU.
The officer stepped on the gas and then braked quickly, throwing the suspect off the hood of the vehicle and then reversing the SUV.
Officer says accused threatened death
But the man got up, ran to and jumped on the hood again screaming several times: “I am going to kill you,” while striking the windshield with the machete again and again, according to the IIU.
Cracks in the windshield appeared, the IIU said, and the RCMP officer eventually decided to again advance and brake quickly, throwing the suspect off the hood once more, this time into a ditch about two metres from the vehicle.
The officer got out of his vehicle, with about five metres and the hood of the SUV between them, and ordered the suspect to leave the weapon and remain on the ground.
The man crawled forward, grabbed the machete again, stood up and started toward the officer again, which led the officer to shoot once at the suspect, the IIU said. He kept firing as the man continued to advance, according to the officer.
Another officer arrived and the pair cuffed the man before administering emergency first aid. He stopped breathing within four minutes and couldn’t be revived.
A lethal force expert said the use of lethal force was “necessary and proportionate to the level of violence.”
After the IIU review, unit civilian director Tessler ruled there were no reasonable grounds to charge the RCMP officer in the shooting.
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