An investigation has concluded that police were not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing when they shot a man who said he was having hallucinations at a home in Sherwood Park two years ago.
On Wednesday, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team issued a news release to report its findings after probing the March 4, 2018 shooting that left a 40-year-old man seriously injured.
According to the police watchdog, the man called 911 for an ambulance at 3:39 a.m. that day and told the dispatcher he was having hallucinations and had stabbed himself in the neck several times.
“The man denied being suicidal and confirmed that the knives were still in his possession,” ASIRT said. “An ambulance and police were both dispatched, as the man was potentially still armed or had access to weapons.”
Paramedics arrived at the home first but waited for police to get there so they could go in and ensure the situation was safe for them. According to ASIRT, when police knocked on the front door, a woman answered but didn’t realize a man there had called 911. ASIRT said the woman later told them that the man in the basement called out to her and told her to let police in.
When police went down to the basement, ASIRT said they could hear the man talking and that when they turned on their flashlights, they saw him standing at the end of a hallway.
“He was bleeding significantly from the neck, and holding what appeared to be a revolver in one hand, pointed toward the ground,” the police watchdog said. “It was communicated that the man had a gun and the officers transitioned to their service weapons.
“Two of the officers issued clear commands to drop the gun and stop, orders audible to the woman upstairs. The man did not respond to the officers’ directions and, after a brief moment, advanced on them, raising the gun in their direction.
“The officers repositioned to gain cover and distance themselves from the man, but when the man raised his firearm to what was described as almost chest level, the officers began discharging their service pistols, striking the man.”
ASIRT said that even though the man was injured, he kept moving toward the officer with his gun raised so police shot at him again and he fell to the ground. ASIRT said he then tried to reach for his gun again so an officer fired in his direction, without hitting him.
The man then surrendered and paramedics were brought in to provide him with medical care before he was taken to hospital to treat his gunshot wounds and the laceration on his neck.
“After the incident, the weapon the man was holding was recovered and determined to be a Crosman 357 revolver-style pellet gun,” ASIRT said. “A search of the basement bathroom of the residence revealed two knives, a bloody towel and a handwritten note addressed to the woman in the home from the man.
“The note advised her that he did not wish to kill himself, but indicated that he had been having hallucinations for weeks.”
ASIRT said its investigation concluded that with regard to the use of force in this case, “there is no question that all involved officers were acting in the lawful execution of their duties.”
“Once inside the residence, the officers were confronted with what appeared to be an armed individual who was non-compliant with repeated verbal commands,” the watchdog said. “When the affected person advanced on the officers and raised what appeared to be a handgun, the situation, both objectively and subjectively, gave rise to a fear of grievous bodily harm or death.
“In this situation, officers were dealing with an unknown person, whose intent they could not possibly predict with any certainty how far he might go, raising and pointing what appeared to be a firearm towards uniformed police officers who had directed and continued to direct him to drop the firearm.
“The officers were not required nor expected to wait to determine whether the man would fire upon them first before they responded. Nor are officers required to use other potential interventions short of lethal force in the face of a threat that very clearly represents a lethal risk to their lives.”
In its news release, ASIRT said its executive director, Susan Hughson, is of the opinion “that the evidence does not provide reasonable grounds, nor even reasonable suspicion, to believe that any of the three officers committed a Criminal Code offence.”
ASIRT did not say if the man who was shot faced or faces any charges.
The watchdog is called in to investigate incidents involving Alberta law enforcement agencies that result in serious injury or death or that involve sensitive allegations of police misconduct.