ASIRT finds actions of Edmonton police officer who fatally shot man with knife ‘clearly reasonable and necessary’
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The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) found an Edmonton police officer who shot a man holding a hunting knife during an impaired driving arrest acted in a way that was “clearly objectively and subjectively reasonable.”
On March 9, 2017, police were called to the Hodgson neighbourhood at around 1:30 p.m. after two separate 911 calls reporting a possibly impaired driver.
ASIRT said different callers reported the driver appeared “drunk,” swerving lanes, hitting snow banks, and driving at speeds from 30 km/h to 120 km/h.
One of the callers followed the van when it pulled into Holland Landing and stopped in the middle of the cul-de-sac, ASIRT said. That’s when a lone EPS officer arrived in a marked police vehicle. The caller drove away. No one directly witnessed what happened next, ASIRT said.
ASIRT said the six-year veteran EPS officer blocked the suspect’s vehicle with his police vehicle and advised the man to stay inside the van. He did not comply. The man got out and the officer noted signs of impairment, including slurred speech, swaying and unfocused eyes.
However, when the officer asked the man if he’d been drinking, the man said no.
ASIRT said the officer then told the man he was under arrest for impaired driving and to turn around.
“What do you want me to do?” ASIRT said the man replied.
The officer repeated the command, ASIRT said, but when he tried to grab the man’s arm, the driver tried to reach for something in his waist.
The police officer repeatedly told the man to show his hands and stepped away to create a safe distance, ASIRT said.
Investigators determined the driver raised a hunting knife towards the officer. The officer tried to back away and slipped on the snow, ASIRT said. The man fell on top of him while still holding the knife.
Despite repeatedly telling the man to drop the weapon and back away, the officer had to kick the man away to gain space.
When the man advanced, still holding the knife, the officer shot four times while laying on the ground.
The man fell, the knife still in his hand, and the officer used his radio to update that shots had been fired and told dispatch the man “came at me with a knife.”
The whole exchange happened quickly, ASIRT said, taking just over one minute.
The officer attempted CPR until backup arrived.
ASIRT said no civilians actually saw what happened, but after hearing shots, two left their homes. One said the officer appeared out of breath and had snow all over his back. ASIRT said in this case, these civilians’ accounts helped corroborate at least part of the officer’s statement.
The man’s blood alcohol level was tested after his death and was found to be at least three and a half times the legal limit, ASIRT said.
“He was grossly intoxicated at time of death… [and that] would have also compromised his thought processes.”
ASIRT said the man was known to carry a hunting knife and DNA on the knife matched this man’s.
Vitaly Savin, 55, had dual Russian and Canadian citizenship, had lived in Edmonton for years and worked as subcontractor. ASIRT doesn’t believe any potential language barriers played a role in this case and investigated that aspect. He had no prior criminal record, ASIRT said. His conduct on March 9, 2017 is considered “out of character.”
“Based on the available evidence as a whole, it is very clear that the conduct of the man presented a very real risk of death to the officer,” ASIRT found.
“The situation escalated at the point when the man twisted away and produced the knife. In response to these actions, the officer attempted to reposition himself to reduce the threat, and had issued numerous commands to the man to stop and to drop the weapon.
“The man was non-compliant with those commands, and initiated a physical confrontation with the officer, despite the officer’s attempts to create distance, and did so while armed with a knife.
“In the circumstances, the officer’s conduct was clearly objectively and subjectively reasonable and necessary.
“When assessing the danger posed to the officer by the man, and factors such as the presence of a weapon, the immediacy of the threat to the officer, and the lack of time, distance or the availability of other alternatives, it is evident that the action taken by the subject officer, while tragic, was reasonable in the circumstances.
“As such, the subject officer’s use of lethal force, having regard to the protections provided in the Criminal Code, was permissible and did not constitute a criminal offence.”
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