Calgary police union suggests ASIRT ‘lost its way’ in Heffernan shooting probe

Anthony Heffernan. Heffernan family

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is coming under fire from a group representing Calgary police officers over how it investigated a police shooting that killed a Calgary man 17 months ago.

In March of 2015, 27-year-old Anthony Heffernan was shot during a confrontation at a motel on Barlow Trail N.E.

On Wednesday, the Calgary police union said the provincial watchdog “lost its way” in what should have been a straightforward investigation.

Officers had reason to believe Heffernan was in a drug-induced state of agitation and were concerned about a syringe he was holding, which turned out to have no needle tip, according to ASIRT’s findings.

On Monday, ASIRT suggested criminal charges against the officer who shot Heffernan were warranted but he was cleared after the Crown decided there was little likelihood of a conviction.

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Click to play video: 'No criminal charges against Calgary police officer who fatally shot Anthony Heffernan' No criminal charges against Calgary police officer who fatally shot Anthony Heffernan
No criminal charges against Calgary police officer who fatally shot Anthony Heffernan – Aug 22, 2016

WATCH ABOVE: The family of a man killed at the hands of police is outraged. They found out Monday that criminal charges will not be laid against the officer who shot Anthony Heffernan in a northeast motel last year. As Sarah Offin reports, the Crown declined to take some rare advice from the provincial police watchdog.

A disagreement between the two organizations is a rare occurrence, according to Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, who called it “an unlikely, infrequent outcome.”

The head of the police union raised concerns saying the investigation took too long and left lingering questions.

“It’s the strangest ASIRT release or findings that I’ve seen during my time as a police officer since ASIRT was formed,” Calgary Police Association (CPA) President Howard Burns said. “It created more questions than it provided answers in my view, and I think because the personal opinion (of the person representing ASIRT) was inserted into the findings.”

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“You create questions when you say possibly or potentially a criminal offence took place and then you leave that hanging.”

The Heffernan family is considering launching a civil suit against the Calgary Police Service and the officers who were in the motel room when Anthony was killed.

READ MORE: Rally held to protest police shooting of Anthony Heffernan

Months ago, the Heffernan family told the media they knew what the results of the ASIRT investigation were and that charges were recommended. Those results hadn’t yet been released publicly or reviewed by the Crown.

“There were concerns around the flow of information in this case,” Ganley said. “I think ASIRT has probably learned a lot in this particular instance. They do understand it was probably very upsetting for the officer and for the Calgary Police Service to learn facts through the media.”

“The concern we have is not anything the family did,” Ganley clarified. “But I think with respect to ASIRT’s part in this – it was not really ideal that… the family would have information and the officer wouldn’t.”

Ganley also said her department is also hearing concerns over the amount of time ASIRT investigations are taking. In the Heffernan case, it was 17 months before a decision was officially released.

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“We understand the importance to our stakeholders to these processes occurring… we’ll certainly be looking at that going forward,” Ganley said.

Both the CPA and the justice minister said they support the Crown’s decision.

The province is also conducting a fatality inquiry into Heffernan’s death. It could take up to a year.

-With files from Bindu Suri

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