Family questions police conduct in firearms search of Port Dover gunsmith

The family of 70-year-old Rodger Kotanko say they are looking for answers from the SIU and Toronto Police Service after the Port Dover gunsmith died during an interaction with officers serving a warrant on Nov. 3. Image supplied to Global News

The family of a Port Dover man say they’re anxiously awaiting the results of an investigation into a Toronto Police (TPS) raid, which they allege led to the death of a local gunsmith.

They’re asking why Roger Kotanko, 70, became a casualty during a firearms search at a property near highways 6 and 24 in Norfolk County. The incident is now the subject of a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) probe.

The province’s police watchdog have only confirmed that Kotanko died following the discharged of firearm from a TPS officer and that seven people have been interviewed – five officials and a pair of civilian witnesses.

In a news conference in front of Kotanko’s Port Ryerse Road home on Thursday, lawyer Michael Smitiuch said the family wants to see the warrant, and would like to know the grounds for issuing it.

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“The family hasn’t seen it. I haven’t seen it,” said Smitiuch.

“Where is this warrant? We don’t even know if it’s proper. We don’t know any of the circumstances around it.”

Smitiuch alleges police “stormed” Kotanko’s workshop and fired four shots at the gunmaker as he met with a supposed customer.

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He said the family received confirmation of his wounds through “medical evidence” acquired from an emergency physician.

Kotanko’s siblings are still waiting to see if they will be granted access to a coroner’s report.


The family’s legal counsel went on to say the 70-year-old’s wife, Jessie, was home at the time, and detained by police just seconds before shots were fired. He also said the TPS brought their own ambulance and paramedics during the raid.

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“They have not even offered condolences, no matter how they see this and how it went down,” Smitiuch said of failed attempts to get answers from Toronto police.

“And so that is disheartening to this family.”

Family members characterized Kotanko as “well-respected” in the community and a renowned gunsmith who worked on guns for police, military, professional shooters and politicians.

His sister, Suzanne Kantor, said she and the family are still “shocked” around the circumstances of Kotanko’s death.

“Everybody loved him,” said Kantor. “I mean, sure, he could be a grumpy old man sometimes, but you talk to majority of the people that knew him. They referred to him as a teddy bear.”

Brother, Jeffrey Kotanko, said none of what happened makes sense to him.

“It’s really stupid. That’s what it is. In my opinion, they didn’t come here to serve a warrant. They came here for something else.”

Global News reached out to the SIU and the Toronto police for statements.

In an e-mail, TPS spokesperson Connie Osborne could not comment further due to SIU protocol which prohibits responses from a police body under investigation.

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The SIU confirmed a post-mortem on Kotanko was conducted the day after his death and that the final report has not yet been received.

“Mr. Kotanko’s next-of-kin are engaged in the SIU’s Affected Persons Program, which includes support services,” the agency said in a release on Thursday.

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