After a lengthy investigation, Alberta’s police watchdog has concluded the use of force that resulted in the death of a Calgary woman in 2018 was justified to save a life.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said police were called to Penbrooke Close S.E. at about 11 a.m. on May 17, 2018 after a report of a break and enter. About an hour later after attempts to make contact with the two people police could hear in the basement suite, five officers and a police dog entered the home.
Police said they could hear a man and a woman screaming and the woman seemed to be in distress. Investigation later revealed the two to be a 33-year-old woman and her 17-year-old son.
One of the doors in the basement wouldn’t open and police said the two were in that room.
Shortly after noon, tactical officers arrived on scene and reported the woman was calling for help. Officers used a ram to hit the door, causing the top to break off. Police said the bottom was blocked by a dryer, but police reported a woman and a teenage boy in what appeared to be a laundry room.
The boy had a knife in his hand, ASIRT said.
Police reportedly commanded the boy to drop the knife, but the young man didn’t. The first officer involved fired five rounds from an Awren launcher, also known as a less-lethal option.
The teen was hit in the leg and buttocks and dropped the knife.
According to police, the woman then grabbed the knife and, despite commands to drop the knife, stabbed her son.
Both officers fired their service weapons and the woman collapsed.
“In a horrifying example of how unpredictable situations can be, officers were required to act immediately in their attempt to save the young man,” ASIRT said.
The woman was pronounced dead on scene and the boy was taken to hospital.
The woman’s cause of death was ruled to be multiple gunshot wounds to the torso, right arm and right thigh. ASIRT’s report said it was not possible to determine the exact number of wounds.
The woman also had a stab wound and multiple “sharp force injuries,” ASIRT said. It wasn’t clear whether the injuries were self-inflicted or she was injured by her son.
During interviews after the incident, the boy said he and his mother had drank alcohol and done drugs on the day of the shooting.
He said he remembered barricading himself and his mom in the laundry room at her request while police were attempting to gain entry to the house, but didn’t remember anything after the door to the laundry room broke open.
He didn’t believe police when they told him he was stabbed by his mother, instead insisted police did it.
Use of force justified: ASIRT
Of the two officers involved, only one provided evidence. ASIRT pointed out an officer has the constitutional right to refuse to participate in an investigation, just like any Canadian citizen.
Under the Criminal Code, a police officer is authorized to use as much force as is reasonably necessary in the enforcement of the law.
Based on the evidence available, ASIRT said the actions of the officers were not only responsive to the situation, but instrumental in stopping the boy’s death.
“As the officers’ actions were taken for the purpose of not only defending the young man from additional grievous bodily harm, but also to preserve his very life, the officers’ use of lethal force was not only justified and reasonable but also absolutely necessary, and accordingly does not constitute an offence,” the news release said.
ASIRT is called in to investigate any time police action leads to injury or death.