SIU clears Toronto police officer tied to gunsmith’s death in Norfolk County

Rodger Kotanko and his wife Xueqin Mai are shown in a family handout photo. The family of Kotanko, a gunsmith who was shot and killed by Toronto police in southwestern Ontario, has sued the force for $23-million for wrongful death. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kotanko Family **MANDATORY CREDIT** . THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kotanko Family

Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared a Toronto police officer of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of a Port Dover gunsmith during a firearms search at a Norfolk County residence last November.

The Special Investigation Unit’s (SIU) director said a claim was not reasonably established that the discharge of four rounds at complainant Rodger Kotanko, 70, constituted excessive force.

“In the result, as there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the force used by the SO (subject officer) was not legally justified, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case against the officer,” SIU director Joseph Martino said in his report.

Read more: 1 dead after police-involved shooting in Port Dover, Ont.

The probe was launched in connection with the death of Kotanko after a “soft entry” by a Toronto police firearms enforcement unit (FEU) at a Simcoe, Ont., property near highways 6 and 24 in Norfolk around noon on Nov. 3, 2021.

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Martino’s narrative from the probe says the complainant was shot after he failed to raise his hands following multiple requests from the FEU and that Kotanko even went as far as to retrieve a customer’s .45-calibre pistol he was repairing and turning it towards an officer.

“The subject officer fired his gun – a Glock .40 calibre semi-automatic – four times in rapid succession, striking the complainant and knocking him off his chair onto his back,” Martino revealed in his report based on witness accounts and communications recordings from authorities.

Paramedics later transported Kotanko to Norfolk General Hospital, where he was declared dead just after 1 p.m.

The family of the gunsmith has launched a lawsuit against Toronto police, seeking $23 million in damages for his death.

Rodger Kotanko’s family alleges police used excessive force and unlawfully executed a search warrant when they raided the home.

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Read more: Gunsmith’s family launches lawsuit against Toronto police over shooting death

In a news conference in front of Kotanko’s Port Ryerse Road home two weeks after the shooting death, lawyer Michael Smitiuch said the family wanted access to the warrant, and to know the grounds for issuing it.

“What happened to Rodger should never have happened and the family is broken,” said Smitiuch.

“Unfortunately, Rodger was killed during the raid, so he can’t defend himself, but the family will do that and they will defend his reputation.”

Martino’s report revealed the warrant was obtained under the Criminal Code authorizing a search of Kotanko’s residence and outbuildings on his property as part of a firearms-trafficking investigation.

“Firearms had been recovered in two separate police investigations, including a kidnapping, that were registered to a firearms business owned by the complainant,” Martino wrote.

“In neither case had the complainant, a gunsmith, reported the firearms stolen or missing, and thus it was suspected that he or an associate had illegally traded in firearms.”

Family and friends are set to respond to the SIU’s finding in a presser next week at Kotanko’s home just outside Port Dover, according to Smitiuch.


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