The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has concluded two separate investigations surrounding a November 2016 arrest that resulted in a Calgary police officer-involved shooting in the Dover neighbourhood. No officers will face any charges as a result of the arrest.
ASIRT found the officer who fired his gun 11 times during the arrest of a 20-year-old man “was reasonable given all of the circumstances.”
But, of an officer who later arrived at the scene and used a repeated series of kicks while apprehending the suspect, ASIRT said, “the actions could be viewed as unnecessary, punitive and the result of heightened emotions rather than tactical need.”
In conducting the investigations, ASIRT interviewed police and civilian witnesses, the man who was arrested, and viewed the in-car digital video system installed in the Calgary Police Service vehicle. Other documentation, including audio communications, were also evaluated.
Just before 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2016, two police officers in a marked patrol car came across a vehicle violating a vehicle infraction. After running the tags and determining that the 2000 Honda Civic had been stolen, the officers called for additional resources, including HAWCS, to assist in a traffic stop, ASIRT said.
After seeing the stolen car pull into an alley in the 3800 block of 30 Avenue S.E. and appear to park facing a closed garage door, the officers activated emergency lights and pulled in behind the car.
The officers approached the car, noting the driver was the sole occupant, ASIRT said. The driver initially appeared “calm and compliant” when he suddenly put the car in reverse and backed up into the police vehicle, according to the report. He then drove forward and to the left of the front of the police vehicle.
ASIRT said the first officer got out of the police vehicle and shouted commands to the driver, including: “Get out of the car.” The car’s engine began revving and the officer observed the man reaching for something inside the vehicle. Worried that the driver might be reaching for a weapon, the officer reached inside the car and grabbed the driver’s arm. The officer then tried, unsuccessfully, to put the car in park and get the car keys. The driver struggled with the officer, shifted the car into reverse, and quickly accelerated, with the officer still partially inside the car through the open driver’s side window, ASIRT said.
The second officer ran over to the passenger side of the car, service pistol drawn.
In a statement, ASIRT describes the actions as captured on the in-car video system:
“On the video, as the man reversed the stolen car, the first officer is visible with his torso mostly inside the vehicle and his lower body off the ground and dangling out of the open driver’s side window. As the Civic moved backward, the first officer’s legs struck the parked police vehicle, and the Civic collided with another parked vehicle. In doing so, the man driving the Civic narrowly missed crushing the first officer between these vehicles.”
ASIRT said from the second officer’s view on the passenger side of the stolen Civic, it would have been unclear whether the first officer was injured during the collisions as the Civic reversed abruptly, or whether the first officer had fallen to the ground and could have been run over.
The suspect then drove forward with the first officer still dangling from the vehicle.
ASIRT said the second officer fired 11 shots at the driver in 2.73 seconds. The first officer fell from the stolen car following the first shot, and the car continued forward, colliding with a garage door and rolling backwards before coming to a rest.
The driver suffered gunshot wounds along his right arm and side. The second officer checked on his partner, ASIRT said, then approached the driver of the stolen Civic, telling him to remain calm.
CPS members provided first aid until EMS arrived, who took the man to the hospital where he was treated for four gunshot wounds.
In reviewing that investigation, ASIRT executive director Susan D. Hughson reached the conclusion the evidence “does not provide reasonable grounds, nor even reasonable suspicion, to believe either officer committed any Criminal Code offence. Both officers were lawfully placed, and the force employed was reasonable in the circumstances. As such, no charges are appropriate.”
The week after, ASIRT launched a separate investigation of events following the shooting of the suspect when more CPS officers were called to the scene, having been told shots had been fired and an officer may be injured.
At that point, the situation became what ASIRT described as “somewhat chaotic.”
The newly arrived officers directed the man to show his hands or put them up, ASIRT said.
An officer reached into the stolen vehicle to pull the driver out into an area in front of the first police car. The officer tripped and fell, pulling the man with him. More officers stepped in to assist. ASIRT said the police dashcam video shows one of the first assisting officers stepping in and delivering three closed-fist punches in quick succession. The police car’s front end partially blocks the view on the video, but ASIRT inferred those punches were to the man’s torso.
With a medley of police officers and the driver on the ground, another officer stepped in and kicked the man five times in what ASIRT describes as “the approximate area of the man’s head or upper torso.”
ASIRT said the officer who pulled the driver from the stolen car got up and told everyone to “chill.” Then, the officer who previously kicked the man delivered three more kicks to the driver.
The two officers involved in the incident declined to provide a statement or any information, “as is their constitutional right,” ASIRT said.
Hughson also reviewed the evidence and obtained a legal opinion from the Crown.
“Based on the evidence, it may have been difficult for officers arriving on scene to immediately distinguish whether the officer accidentally tripped and fell while pulling the man away from the stolen vehicle or was involved in a struggle that caused them to fall to the ground,” she wrote in a statement. “It happened so quickly, in exigent circumstances, and in the context of a potentially violent offender who had already tried to avoid arrest. Without knowing that the officer had accidentally tripped, a reasonable person could have misinterpreted the situation and perceived a need to assist the officer in the control and restraint of the man. However, a recognition that force might be necessary would not justify any use of force beyond that which was reasonably necessary.”
The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service determined the standard for prosecution was not met. As such, no officer will face charges related to the use of force on the driver after he was removed from the stolen car.