Hard to question actions in the moment of 7-Eleven incident, says police use-of-force expert

Click to play video 'Winnipeg police talk about use-of-force following officer-involved shooting' Winnipeg police talk about use-of-force following officer-involved shooting
Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Rob Carver talks about use-of-force after an officer-involved shooting at a West End convenience store – Nov 22, 2019

Winnipeg police are under scrutiny after an officer shot a teen several times after an attempted convenience store robbery Thursday.

The shooting, which took place outside the 7-Eleven store at Arlington Street and Ellice Avenue in the West End, put the 16-year-old boy in hospital in critical condition.

A Toronto use-of-force expert told 680 CJOB that the video of the shooting creates a lot of questions.

“We always have the benefit of viewing the video later –- we’re not living the real moment at that time,” said Steve Summerville, a former Toronto cop and use-of-force trainer at the Ontario Police College.

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“In this particular moment, you’ve got a split second to exercise judgement. This was not an isolated area… there was a lot of vehicle traffic behind this officer.

“I would point out the officer is duty-bound to protect the public. He would likely be heavily criticized if he just walked away or backed away and this individual walked into the area where there were pedestrians and created a risk to them there.”

READ MORE: Updated: Winnipeg police shoot teen at West End 7-Eleven during armed robbery

In video of the incident, officers appear to shoot the suspect five times, followed by a second burst of four shots. It’s that decision to fire again after the first shots, Summerville said, that will likely have a significant impact on any decisions that affect the officer’s future.

“I will note that on the second shot, it would appear that the subject did start to alter his path. I saw a bit of a recoil,” he said.

“You saw his actual arm move forward, he started to buckle, turn a little bit toward his left… toward the wall of the 7-11.

“I wouldn’t characterize that as under control or ‘no risk’, but the decision to exercise the second series of four shots, that’s probably going to become extremely crucial as he’s adjudicated or judged going forward.”

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Summerville said criticisms that the officer should have shot the man in the leg or arm are unrealistic, and that Hollywood movies have given people a skewed idea of the way cops are trained, as well as how difficult it is to shoot so precisely, especially under stress.

“We get fooled a lot by what we see in Hollywood. Officers are trained to shoot centre mass, not to kill but to stop. It’s extremely difficult to control the accuracy of your shots, even in a controlled environment like a shooting range.

“There’s no specific training in terms of how many shots it would take. You’re taught to shoot until the risk is over or somewhat controlled. Whether that took nine shots, I don’t know.”

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Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver said he was unable to comment on the shooting specifically, as the Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) of Manitoba has assumed responsibility for the investigation, but said that in general, there’s a lack of understanding from the public about how police-involved shootings tend to unfold.

“It’s not like in the movies, it’s not like where someone gets shot, they fall over, they get blown back. We have all sorts of scientific evidence of what is required to stop that threat and it typically takes multiple rounds to center mass,” he said.

“I think one of the huge difficulties here is that people watch TV and it’s not reality. You have a massive hit of adrenaline when your life is being threatened. You have split seconds to make a decision, and multiple rounds have to be fired to stop the threat.

“Anyone who doesn’t understand that is simply being an armchair quarterback and has no concept of what’s required.”

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Winnipeg police respond to media following officer-involved shooting – Nov 22, 2019