An investigation has found “no basis” for criminal charges against a Peel Region officer who fatally shot a mentally ill man in his Brampton home this spring, Ontario’s police watchdog said Monday.
The Special Investigations Unit said the officer had reason to believe he was acting in self-defence when he shot D’Andre Campbell, who was holding a knife.
Agency director Joseph Martino said the 26-year-old Campbell was “clearly unwell and not of sound mind” on April 6, when he called 911 about a dispute in the home.
“Mr. Campbell’s death was doubtless a tragedy,” Martino wrote in his report.
“As I have no reasonable grounds based on the foregoing analysis to believe the (officer) acted other than lawfully in his interaction with Mr. Campbell, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges.”
Martino acknowledged, however, that there were legitimate criticisms about how two officers handled the situation with the mentally ill man.
They did not make attempts to try and calm Campbell, Martino said, and they failed to discuss how they would approach him before they arrived.
But Martino said that issue falls outside the scope of his agency’s mandate.
“Their failure to meaningfully engage in any efforts to talk Mr. Campbell down is tempered by the fact that they were being confronted by an individual pointing a knife in their direction,” Martino’s report dated Dec. 3 said.
“If there were lapses in judgment on the part of (the two officers), they were neither reckless nor wanton in the circumstances.”
The report said the police officers were lawfully inside the home because they had been called to residence and Campbell’s mother let them in.
The officer who shot Campbell declined to be interviewed for the investigation, which considered evidence from the scene and eyewitness accounts from the other officer and Campbell’s family members.
Martino’s report said the officer told Campbell to drop a knife when he entered the kitchen of the home. The officer Tasered Campbell after the man came “within a metre or so” of himself and another officer.
Campbell fell to the floor and the officer then physically struggled with him, the SIU said. The second officer then Tasered Campbell again.
The report said Campbell was still holding the knife when he stood up and “within seconds,” the officer who first Tasered Campbell then shot him twice in the abdomen.
The officer tried to perform CPR on Campbell, and paramedics also tried to revive him upon arrival, but he died at the scene.
Martino noted that two of Campbell’s sisters maintained that their brother “was standing in place, not having made any movements toward the officers” just before the officer shot him.
The other police officer said, however, that Campbell “took one or two deliberate steps forward before he was shot.”
“I am unable to resolve this conflict in the evidence,” Martino said.
Police were aware of Campbell’s history of struggles with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Officers had been called to Campbell’s home in response to his mental health issues several times over the last decade, the report said.
The report noted “legitimate criticism” that the officers were aware Campbell was likely in mental distress, but they did not plan ahead about how they would approach him or de-escalate if necessary.
“Whether those conversations would have made a difference to the outcome is speculation, but the officers’ failure to have that discussion limited their ability to consider alternative strategies,” he said.
The report looked at the “arguable” point that the officers could have retreated from the kitchen before resorting to lethal force, rather than yelling at Campbell to drop the knife.
But Martino said “withdrawal would not have been a simple matter” because of the confined space, and he determined that it wasn’t unreasonable for the officers to stand their ground.
Martino also did not find fault with the decision not to dispatch a Crisis Outreach Assessment Support Team, consisting of a plainclothes officer and mental health professional. He said not enough information was given on the initial 911 call and policy at the time dictated that those teams do not respond situations involving weapons.
Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah responded to the report saying the police force understands the feelings of “grief, loss and pain” in the community.
He said Campbell’s death was a “rare and tragic situation.”
“No one wanted this terrible outcome for Mr. Campbell,” Duraiappah said in the statement.
He said the police force is working on improving mental health resources to fill “gaps in the human services systems that must be addressed or we will face similar tragic circumstances again in the future.”