The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says an imitation firearm was recovered at the scene of an officer-involved shooting in downtown Edmonton Wednesday evening that left an innocent man and a robbery suspect dead.
The incident started just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, when police responded to an armed robbery at a liquor store in the area of 113 Street and 104 Avenue.
ASIRT said the person who called 911 said a man with a firearm robbed the store and left on foot.
ASIRT said police were able to locate the 36-year-old suspect in the area of 107 Avenue and 105 Street at 7:01 p.m. He headed north on 105 Street. At about 7:03 p.m., ASIRT said a confrontation occurred between the man and police and officers shot their firearms, hitting the 36-year-old.
Police provided first aid until EMS arrived, but the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, ASIRT said in a news release Friday.
An imitation firearm was located nearby.
“The fact that it’s an imitation firearm just makes it all the more tragic, because obviously the suspect wasn’t capable of harming the police,” said Tom Engel, chair of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association policing committee.
“But if it looked real and police thought it was a real firearm, or weren’t about to guess about whether it was, then of course they’re entitled to treat it as if it was a real firearm.”
During the confrontation, a second man — who was inside a nearby apartment suite and not involved in the incident — was struck. This man was rushed to hospital by paramedics, where he died of his injuries.
ASIRT said the man was 59 years old. His identity has not been released, but the property management company of the Metro on 105 apartment building said Thursday he was one of the building’s resident managers.
Doug King, a professor in Justice Studies at Mount Royal University, said Thursday it will be important for ASIRT to put resources on this investigation to ensure it is completed in a timely fashion.
“It won’t be an easy task. They are understaffed and underfunded and they have been for five years,” King said.
“That’s not ASIRT’s fault. That is the government of Alberta’s fault, that is the minister of justice’s fault.”
Alex Puddifant, a spokesperson for the justice minister, said the 2022 provincial budget tabled on Thursday increased ASIRT’s budget from $3.9 million to $5.3 million.
“This additional funding means ASIRT can hire more investigators and build its capacity to manage complex investigations,” Puddifant said in a statement Friday.
“While the number of files referred to ASIRT for investigation has not increased, it is the complexity of these cases that has significantly increased and challenged ASIRT’s capacity.”
Puddifant said thoroughly investigating serious incidents and sensitive allegations involving police and providing timely answers to citizens is essential for police accountability and upholding the public’s confidence.
“This budget increase will improve ASIRT’s ability to perform these vital functions.”
ASIRT’s executive director Susan Hughson resigned in November. Earlier in 2021, Hughson told an Edmonton Police Commission meeting that ASIRT faced significant delays in complicated cases due to a lack of resources.
“The Edmonton situation is in desperate need of transparency and quick resolution, and ASIRT will need to put resources on it,” King said of Wednesday’s shooting.
Engel also believes ASIRT is under-resourced, but added he would like to have seen more details about what happened on Wednesday night.
“It’s completely inadequate detail and the public is entitled to detailed information of what is known by the police,” he said.
“I don’t understand why ASIRT hasn’t given the public a lot more.”
As part of its investigation, ASIRT is looking to speak with anyone who may have witnessed the confrontation between the 36-year-old man and police. Anyone with pictures, video or information is asked to contact ASIRT at 780-644-1483.
Edmonton’s police chief said Thursday the EPS is fully cooperating with the ASIRT investigation and as it unfolds over the next few weeks, the members involved in the shooting will not be on active duty.
ASIRT is called upon to investigate serious and sensitive matters involving police in Alberta.