Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared a Hamilton police officer of any wrongdoing in an October 2018 incident in which the officer fatally shot a woman with a knife near King Street East and Wellington Street North.
In his decision, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) interim director Joseph Martino said he was satisfied on reasonable grounds the subject officer did not “run afoul” of criminal law when he took action against the woman (complainant) who “was not of sound mind,” having been “under the influence of non-prescription drugs and upset with a domestic situation.”
Hamilton police say they were called to a report of a person with a knife around 1 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2018, after a 911 call was placed requesting police and ambulance.
Two male witnesses met police in front of the apartment building on King Street, with one of them showing officers a cut the woman allegedly inflicted on him in a confrontation. Two Hamilton police officers then made their way up a staircase in the complex to the second-floor suite of the injured witness and entered his apartment.
Officers then entered a bedroom in the unit and encountered the woman standing on the bed with a knife. One of the officers drew a taser and ordered the woman to drop the knife, according to Martino’s report.
The complainant refused and instead brought the knife up to her neck and started cutting her own throat. The officer discharged the taser into the complainant believing she was trying to kill herself.
After discharging the Taser twice, the complainant held the knife over her head and “lunged aggressively” at the officers, the SIU report said.
The other officer on the scene drew his handgun and repeatedly ordered the woman to drop the knife. The woman refused and moved towards the officers just before she was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the back.
A pathologist later attributed the complainant’s death to multiple gunshot wounds.
The officer in question, who declined an interview with the SIU, did say in his notes that he feared for his and his partner’s life.
Martino went on to decide that the officer took necessary action to protect himself and his partner from “loss of life or grievous bodily harm.”
On a side note, Martino addressed the fact that one of the shots hit the complainant in the back, which might suggest she was turned away from the shooter and “not an immediate threat” to the officers.
Martino suggested it was “unreasonable” to suggest a change in the officer’s “state of mind” from one moment to the next as he fired. He went on to say that “officers caught up in violent encounters are not expected to measure their responsive force to a nicety.”