SIU clears Niagara police officer who shot suspect in Smithville
Officers who shot a Mississauga man in a December incident in Niagara region have been cleared of any wrongdoing by Ontario’s police watchdog.
The interim director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Joseph Martino, said there were “no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges” against a Niagara regional police (NRPS) officer who discharged his firearm in Smithville after a confrontation with a suspect.
According to the SIU, the NRPS was called to an address on Anastasia Boulevard in West Lincoln around 12:24 p.m. on December 21, 2018, after a report of a family disturbance.
Police say they had information that a suspect went into the home and tied up one or more family members and was holding them against their will in the basement.
Upon arrival, an officer encountered a suspect (referred to as “the Complainant” in the SIU report) outside and approached him as he began walking toward a pickup truck.
The report says the officer made multiple attempts to communicate with the man but was ignored.
“One of the police officers grabbed the Complainant from behind and a struggle ensued,” according to Martino’s report. “During the struggle, the Complainant produced a firearm, and a conducted energy weapon (CEW) was deployed.”
The CEW, or taser, had no effect on the complainant, according to Martino. Eventually, an officer fired his service pistol several times, striking the man. After a struggle, the complainant was handcuffed and transported to hospital with gunshot wounds.
In the police investigation, it was later determined that the suspect was armed with a starter pistol that was “only capable of firing blank cartridges.”
Despite the finding, Martino determined that in the short period of time the officers had to react, they could not have known it was a replica gun.
“While the pistol was, in fact, a starter pistol and incapable of firing live rounds, the SO (Subject Officer) could not have known that; at the time he fired his CEW and firearm,” Martino said, “The officer had every reason to believe the pistol was a dangerous weapon.”
The suspect, 46-year-old Alexander Jason Bates of Mississauga, was initially charged with two counts of attempted murder while in hospital following the shooting.
Bates was also charged with uttering death threats and using an imitation firearm in the commission of an offence.
Police say the two unidentified victims, found in the home in critical condition, were eventually released from hospital.
With files from Laura Hampshire, Jessica Patton, Nick Westoll, and Lisa Polewski
WATCH: Ontario’s police watchdog investigating officer-involved shooting in Smithville
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