Nova Scotia police watchdog finds no charges warranted in fatal July 2020 RCMP shooting

Nova Scotia RCMP on the scene at Howard Avenue in Eastern Passage, N.S., on Thursday, July 9, 2020. Jeremy Keefe/Global News

Nova Scotia’s independent police watchdog has finished its investigation of a fatal shooting by RCMP in July 2020 and has concluded no charges are warranted because the officer feared for his personal safety.

The Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) released its report Tuesday.

Halifax District RCMP were initially called July 9, 2020 in response to a 911 call about an armed man uttering threats in Eastern Passage.

SiRT’s report notes the man’s mother had called police after he pointed a handgun, which she believed was loaded, in her face.

“The (suspect) knew his mother was on the phone with the police when he said in a voice loud enough to be heard on the call that he was “done” and would shoot whoever came to the house,” the report reads.

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The report also says the man had been drinking and a toxicology report noted his blood alcohol concentration as being 0.206g/100ml.

When officers arrived, the suspect was found outside of the residence with a handgun. SiRT says the officers tried to de-escalate the situation, but to no avail.

“The (suspect’s) behaviour as evidenced by the threats he made to his mother and others, together with his failure to drop the gun he was holding when told to do so and more particularly his raising the gun in the direction of the (three officers) provided the officers with a reasonable belief that his actions were presenting an immediate risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the officers and others,” the report reads.

SiRT says its investigation concluded it was reasonable for the officer to believe his life was in danger and the use of the firearm to shoot the suspect “was justified in the circumstances.”

The man died at the scene.

According to SiRT’s report, it was later determined the gun the suspect had pointed at police was in fact an air gun pistol, which was not loaded and did not have an air cartridge in it at the time.

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“Close up coloured photographs of this gun depict it has having all the characteristics and appearance of a real pistol,” the report notes.

In the days following the shooting, neighbours confirmed to Global News the man was 60-year-old Richard Wheeler.

They said Wheeler lived with his mother, was well-known on the street and had some issues that had prompted police calls in the past.

Nova Scotia does have a mobile crisis team that works with police to respond to mental health calls, but funding only allows for a few teams so they are not available to respond to every call, and they need to be contacted directly.

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Police shooting raises calls for more mental health supports

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