Alberta’s police watchdog has cleared a Calgary officer of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a man in the community of Redstone in 2018.
The victim, a 25-year-old man, was shot during a confrontation with police during which he attacked officers through the open window of a police cruiser with two knives, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) said.
The man’s shooting death happened on Aug. 31 after a series of interactions with police that took place over the course of about six hours.
Officers were initially called to a gym on Country Hills Boulevard the evening before for complaints a man kicked out of the facility for a fight had made statements that raised concerns for his mental health.
ASIRT said the man had made comments to the effect that “this place is hell” or “earth is hell” and that “where I am going is better.”
When officers arrived an hour later the man was still driving around the gym parking lot.
ASIRT said when police attempted to stop the man he drove out of the gym parking lot and eastbound on Country Hills Boulevard at a “high rate of speed” toward his family home.
“During this time, CPS members recognized the man’s history of possible mental health concerns and spoke with his family, who also expressed concerns for his mental health,” ASIRT said.
The Calgary Police Service’s HAWCS helicopter monitored the man’s vehicle while he drove.
ASIRT said he sped, failed to stop at red lights and at times drove on the wrong side of the road.
Just after midnight on Aug. 31, 2018, the man arrived at his family home but sped off when he appeared to notice a police car parked out front.
“The man continued to drive dangerously — frequently on the wrong side of the road — at one point driving down a bike path,” ASIRT said. “He also appeared to try to ram a marked police vehicle.”
“HAWCS continued to monitor the man’s vehicle. Meanwhile, so as not to escalate the situation, marked police vehicles did not interact with him.”
ASIRT said officers removed the man’s family from his home for their own safety, and at around 12:21 a.m. he parked his car and went inside the now-empty house.
Over the next two hours, police attempted to coax the man to voluntarily leave the residence but he refused to come outside — or said that if he did, he would have a knife in his pocket.
ASIRT said officers towed the man’s vehicle with the aim of preventing him from driving off in it and potentially injuring people.
“Officers attempted to have family members talk with the man, only for him to become even more agitated to learn that they were assisting police in their attempts to resolve the situation,” ASIRT said.
“During this period of time, the man sent the song You Can’t Kill Me by Eminem to a family member.”
ASIRT said it was later discovered that the man had posted an Instagram video in which he appeared to express some desire to have someone kill him.
ASIRT said the video “showed the man calmly stating ‘beat me to death or run me over… or whatever you can, kill me…thank you.”
Police were unaware of the video at that time.
“He appeared to be most agitated and angry with the involvement of police,” ASIRT said.
“During one phone call with an officer, the man commented that if he left the residence and police tried to arrest him, he would kill the officers. He also stated that if they came into the residence to arrest him, he would stab as many of them as he could.
“Eventually, the man stopped answering his phone altogether,” ASIRT said.
At this time, officers had limited options.
“As the presence of police seemed to be a particular source of agitation for the man, and since he appeared to want a confrontation, one option was for the officers to stand down and leave the immediate area to de-escalate the situation and give the man time to calm down,” ASIRT explained.
Police left the area and advised family to find another place to stay for the night and not to return home.
Later, at around 3:35 a.m., police were called back to the home by neighbours who complained the man was playing loud music and, aware of the previous standoff with officers, were concerned for their safety.
ASIRT said officers tried calling the man but he didn’t answer his phone.
Two officers in a marked police cruiser were sent to the home to respond to the complaint. The officers had been among those who had been present at the earlier standoff.
“At 3:46 a.m., while patrolling the area, the officers spotted the man walking southbound on the west side of Redstone Street. As they watched the man, they noted that he was carrying a knife,” ASIRT said.
Worrying that he might harm pedestrians if he encountered any on the busy corridor, and, concerned that he was walking toward a gas station, ASIRT said the officers believed the man “needed to be apprehended.”
Officers drove near the man and the one sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle “challenged the man” to drop the knife while holding an Anti Riot Weapon ENfield (ARWEN) launcher that fires less-lethal baton rounds out the open window.
“At first, the man kept walking,” ASIRT said. “But then turned around and began to taunt the officers. He yelled something to the effect of ‘come get me, I have nothing in my hands.’”
At that time, the officer asked for and received permission to deploy his ARWEN launcher.
“While he aimed the shot at the man’s upper left thigh, it had no observable effect. The officer fired again. This round appeared to have some impact, as the man lifted his leg, however, it did not stop the man or cause him to drop the knife,” ASIRT said.
The man then began to sprint across a field and toward a row of duplexes.
“There was a concern that the man might try to gain entry into the residences,” ASIRT said.
As police drove west down an alley to get back onto Redstone Street, they saw the man was now walking with a knife in each hand.
“At approximately 3:48 a.m., as the man continued onto Redstone Street, the officer armed with the ARWEN launcher fired a round at the man, which had no observable impact,” ASIRT said.
It was then that ASIRT said the man confronted police, running toward the cruiser and inserting his upper body through the open passenger-side window of the cruiser.
“He began to make slashing motions with the two knives,” police said. “As the officer pushed back and away in his seat to avoid being cut by the knives and attempted to release his service pistol from his holster, the (officer in the driver’s seat) drew his service weapon and fired three shots at the man from close range.”
“The man was struck and fell out of the window and to the ground.”
ASIRT said the time from the last deployment of the ARWEN and the shots being fired was approximately four seconds.
Officers got out of their vehicles and began performing emergency aid while waiting for EMS and additional CPS members to respond.
Both knives — a paring knife and a steak knife — were recovered from the ground near the man. In addition, a third steak knife was found in the man’s pants.
An autopsy determined the man died from his gunshot wounds.
An analysis of the incident by ASIRT found the officer who fired his gun killing the man committed no offences by doing so.
“It was only when the man attacked, placing the officer in the passenger seat immediately in critical danger, that the subject officer drew his service pistol and resorted to lethal force,” ASIRT said.
“In the circumstances, it was not only permissible but necessary to resort to lethal force to save the life of another, no matter how tragic the outcome.”