On May 18, 2015, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was directed by the Director of Law Enforcement to investigate the circumstances surrounding an Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of a 31-year-old man.
On that date at approximately 9:33 p.m., EPS received a public complaint of a possible impaired driver operating a silver vehicle weaving in and out of traffic in the area of Victoria Trail.
Two police officers travelling northbound in an unmarked police vehicle immediately responded and located the vehicle pulled over in the southbound curb lane on Victoria Trail near 118 Avenue. The officers activated their emergency lights and pulled in behind the vehicle. One officer approached the driver’s side where a lone man was seated. The driver’s side window was down and the man was observed to be tense and sweating profusely while attempting to start the vehicle. When asked what was going on, the man indicated that his vehicle would not start. The officer advised the man that he was investigating a possible impaired driver complaint at which time the man became agitated and belligerent indicating he had not been drinking but had been in a fight with his girlfriend. When the officer asked to see his driver’s licence, he swore at the officer stating he did not have one.
The officer requested the man step out of his vehicle so they could talk but the request was ignored. The officer reached into the vehicle to try to obtain the keys at which point the man grabbed his arm and attempted to pull the officer into the vehicle. A struggle began and the second officer ran over and attempted to assist in removing the man from the vehicle. The officers managed to get the driver’s door open at which point the assisting officer drew his Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW), commonly known as a Taser. Upon the first officer stepping aside slightly to allow the CEW to be deployed, he heard the assisting officer yell “gun, gun, gun”. Both officers moved to take cover when the first officer slipped and fell to the ground on the driver’s side of the rear of the vehicle. When the fallen officer turned over onto his back, he saw the man exit the vehicle with a sawed-off shotgun. The man racked his shotgun and, from a very short distance, pointed it to where the officer was lying and fired the weapon. The officer, shot in the lower leg and unable to stand, dragged himself along the ground to gain cover behind the vehicle. After shooting the first officer, the man was seen by witnesses running from the vehicle across the street, holding and pointing the shotgun back towards where the police were. The second officer fired multiple shots upon the man and as he turned to run, the man sustained a single gunshot wound to the head. He moved slightly forward and fell to the ground. The man was pronounced deceased on scene. The injured officer was placed in another police vehicle and rushed to hospital by a fellow member and admitted with significant shotgun wounds to his lower right leg.
Shortly before the incident, the man sent messages to an ex-girlfriend that reflected suicidal thoughts. This witness had indicated that the man had expressed suicidal thoughts in the past and that he told her if he wanted to commit suicide he would do it by shooting up a police station as he hated the “cops” that much. Another witness spoke with the man in the hours before the incident and described noticing something very off about his behaviour, and that he was sweating profusely and very paranoid when she last spoke with him. His behaviour was unusual.
Toxicology results confirmed that at the time of his death, the man was under the influence of methamphetamine, oxycodone and three other prescription benzodiazepine medications commonly used to treat anxiety.
A Micro SD card located in the man’s vehicle included pictures from April 12, 2015 depicting him holding the shotgun, along with a separate picture of the shotgun and ammunition.
The evidence clearly established that at the time of his death the 31-year old man presented a continuing threat to the lives of the officers, and, as he fled, a threat to public safety. Indeed, the threat had already become very real when the man racked the sawed-off shotgun and deliberately shot one officer. Independent evidence confirms that as the man was fleeing the scene, he turned and pointed the sawed-off shotgun at the officers. In these circumstances, the use of lethal force was both reasonable and necessary. ASIRT Executive Director Susan D. Hughson, Q.C., has confirmed that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any offence was committed and the officer involved will not be charged with any criminal offences arising out of this incident.
ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently, and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.