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Probe looking into man’s 2017 death in northern Alberta finds RCMP did nothing wrong: police watchdog

File photo of an Alberta Serious Incident Response Team logo on a vehicle.
File photo of an Alberta Serious Incident Response Team logo on a vehicle. File / Global News

An investigation looking into the actions of police and whether they played a role in the death of a 20-year-old man in northern Alberta last year has determined officers did not commit any offences.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) released its findings on Tuesday after it had been tasked with looking into the circumstances surrounding the man’s death.

“While the outcome is tragic… [ASIRT’s executive director] reviewed the investigation and evidence and has determined there are no reasonable grounds, nor reasonable suspicion, to believe that any of the officers on scene committed an offence,” the police watchdog said in a news release.

READ MORE: Alberta police watchdog investigates death of man in RCMP custody

Shortly before 10 p.m. on Feb. 11, 2017, RCMP officers were called to a rural property north of Beaverlodge, Alta. (which is located about 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton) after someone complained about a suspicious man being there. ASIRT said a neighbour saw a vehicle parked by the home for “an extended period of time and saw lights in the basement.” The neighbour contacted the homeowner who told them nobody was supposed to be at the home and gave RCMP permission to enter.

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“It was believed that the person in the residence was known to the homeowner and Beaverlodge RCMP,” the police watchdog said. “The man had a significant criminal history, had outstanding warrants and could be unpredictable.”

ASIRT said three officers entered the home and identified themselves as police. They found a man sitting on a couch who then “jumped up with a shotgun in his hand.”

“Officers repeatedly instructed him to drop the shotgun as they slowly backed out of the residence and repositioned,” the civilian oversight agency said, “[but] the man followed them to the door, still armed with the shotgun.”

Police once again told the man to drop the gun and he just went back inside, according to ASIRT. The officers then started moving to safer positions when they heard a single gunshot be fired inside the home.

“After determining it was safe to enter the home, officers went in and found the man, deceased, on a landing halfway down the basement stairs,” the police watchdog said. “He had a visible head wound and the shotgun was recovered propped between his legs in a position consistent with suicide.”

An autopsy confirmed the cause of death was a self-inflicted shotgun wound. Meanwhile, toxicology tests showed the man has used cannabis and cocaine before he died.

“In this case, it is clear that man died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” ASIRT said. “The officers on scene were acting in the lawful execution of their duties, had permission to enter the residence and when the man escalated the situation, they tried to de-escalate by backing out of the residence and tactically repositioning until additional support could attend.”

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ASIRT is called on to investigate incidents involving law enforcement agencies in Alberta that result in serious injury or death or in case involving serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.

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