The province’s police watchdog has cleared two Cobourg Police Service officers of any wrongdoing in the October 2017 shooting death of a 70-year-old man inside of the emergency room at Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg.
The report by Special Investigations Unit director Tony Laparco determined the shooting death was justified.
According to the SIU, police arrived at the hospital at around 11 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2017, for a call of gunshots fired inside of the hospital. Shortly after arriving, the man and the two officers both officers fired their weapons.
The SIU did not release the names, but Global Peterborough confirmed later the man was Tom Ryan and his wife was Helen Ryan, 76.
Larparco stated: “I find, therefore, on this record, that the shots that were fired, more than 20 of which struck and subsequently killed the Complainant, were justified pursuant to s. 25(1) and (3) of the Criminal Code, and that Subject Officer (SO) #1 and SO #2, in preserving themselves or others from the infliction of grievous bodily harm or death by the Complainant, used no more force than was necessary to affect their lawful purpose.
“As such, I lack the reasonable grounds to believe that the actions exercised by SO #1 and SO #2 fell outside the limits prescribed by the criminal law and instead find there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges in this case.”
According to the SIU report, on Oct. 27, a healthcare worker was assigned to the Ryans because Helen was concerned with Tom’s safety over a recent obsession with taking his own life.
As a result, the healthcare worker called an ambulance to have both taken to hospital to address the safety concerns as well as medical issues for both parties.
“As the Complainant was placed on the stretcher by paramedics, he commented to his wife that “It’s been a great 46 years of knowing you, I love you, but apparently 47 years wasn’t in the cards for us,” and indicated to the healthcare worker that they had to “cash the chips in eventually.”
Both the complainant and his wife were then transported to hospital, the report stated.
Once at the hospital, the Ryans were placed in Triage Room 7 where they were left alone until a doctor could see them. Shortly after, a loud bang was heard coming from Room 3. A nurse noted Helen Ryan had been shot in the right side of her head. Tom Ryan told the nurse that Helen had shot herself, the report stated.
Helen Ryan was immediately taken to the recovery room in attempts to save her life and police were called.
When the officers arrived, they were advised by medical staff that the man claimed his wife shot herself despite the fact no firearm was located.
Officers then attended Triage Room 7 where the man pointed a firearm at them. After drawing their own weapons and making several demands to Ryan to put down his weapon, both officers fired at him.
According to a post-mortem examination, Tom Ryan died from gunshot wounds to his torso and extremities.
The cause of death of Helen Ryan was determined to be as a result of a single gunshot wound perforating the brain.
Late Wednesday, Cobourg Police Service Chief Kai Liu issued a statement saying officers were responding to the town’s first homicide in a decade. He said the domestic homicide touched the lives of all first responders and hospital staff involved.
Liu also said the quick action by the hospital’s emergency department protected patients. He also praised the efforts of the two responding police officers.
“I am very proud of the heroic actions of my responding officers,” Liu said in a statement. “Cobourg police officers responded professionally as they were trained.”
The police chief added the “tragic event” has inspired the hospital and police service to work together to enhance Active Attacker training for hospital and police personnel.
“It’s out intention that this outcome will not only assist our own community in feeling safe, but also support other hospitals across our province and beyond as they too enhance measures to guard against gun violence.”
The SIU is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving police officers where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.