Calgary Officer Acted Reasonably in Shooting

Calgary Officer Acted Reasonably in Shooting

On Nov. 3, 2016, ASIRT was directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding an encounter between a 20-year-old man and members of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) that resulted in the man sustaining serious injuries as a result of an officer-involved shooting.

ASIRT interviewed police and civilian witnesses, including the man. Additionally, the patrol vehicle was equipped with an In-Car Digital Video (ICDV) system that captured the events from the initial contact to the time the officer fired his service pistol.

On Nov. 3, 2016, at approximately 6:58 p.m. two CPS officers were in a marked patrol unit and came across a vehicle committing a traffic infraction. A computer search determined the vehicle in question, a Honda Civic, was stolen. As the officers waited for additional resources to assist in a traffic stop, the stolen vehicle entered an alley and appeared to park. The two members activated the patrol unit’s emergency lights and pulled in near the stolen vehicle to deal with the driver. This is when the police ICDV system was activated.

The Civic was facing towards a closed garage door. The police vehicle stopped, with emergency lights activated, close to the rear of the vehicle on the driver’s side. Officers could see through the open driver’s side window that the man at the wheel of the Civic was the sole occupant of the vehicle. He initially appeared calm and compliant — but without warning, the man placed the Civic in reverse and backed up, colliding with the police vehicle. He then drove forward and to the left of the front end of the police vehicle.

One officer got out of the police vehicle and shouted commands at the man to “Get out of the car.”  The rear portion of the Honda Civic, still visible on the ICDV recording, stopped in a sudden rocking motion, the engine heard revving loudly. The officer observed the man trying to move the Civic forward and reaching for something inside the vehicle. Concerned that the man might be reaching for a weapon, the officer reached inside the vehicle and grabbed his arm. The officer believed the vehicle was shifted into neutral, and the car’s engine could still be heard revving loudly on the ICDV recording.

While reaching inside the vehicle, the officer tried, unsuccessfully, to shift the vehicle into park and get the vehicle’s keys. During a resulting struggle with the officer, the man put the vehicle in reverse and quickly accelerated backwards with the officer still partially inside the stolen vehicle through the driver’s side window.

The second officer had run over to the passenger side of the Civic and had drawn his service pistol. On the video, as the man reversed the stolen car, the first officer is visible with his torso mostly inside the vehicle and his lower body off the ground and dangling out of the open driver’s side window. As the Civic moved backward, the first officer’s legs struck the parked police vehicle, and the Civic collided with another parked vehicle. In doing so, the man driving the Civic narrowly missed crushing the first officer between these vehicles.

From the second officer’s vantage point standing on the passenger side of the Civic, it would not have been clear whether the first officer was still hanging from the driver’s side window, whether he had been injured during the collisions as the Civic sped backwards, or whether he had fallen to the ground, potentially under the vehicle or in a position to be run over. Having already dragged the officer in one direction, the man now drove the Civic forward while still struggling with the first officer, who was still dangling from the vehicle and once again in danger of being crushed. The second officer fired 11 shots at the man in 2.73 seconds. The first officer fell from the Civic following the first shot. The vehicle continued to move forward, collided with a garage door and rolled backwards before coming to a rest.

Once the vehicle stopped moving, it became apparent that the man sustained gunshot wounds along the right arm and side, causing serious injury. The second officer checked on the first officer and then approached the man in the Civic to assess his condition, telling him to remain calm and that medical attention was on its way. CPS members provided first aid until Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived. EMS took the man to hospital, where he was treated for four gunshot wounds.

The man’s operation of the stolen Civic created a danger that exposed the first officer to a risk of imminent death or grievous bodily harm. The risk was objectively serious and immediate and the fact that the officer was not seriously hurt was likely nothing more than luck, considering the man had narrowly missed crushing the officer between the stolen vehicle and the two stationary vehicles in his path as he quickly reversed the Civic. The risk remained as the man accelerated the Civic forward with the officer still partially inside the vehicle and dangling from its side. The man would have continued to present a risk to that CPS member after the officer fell to the ground: it would not have been clear whether the officer had escaped the vehicle’s path or remained in danger of being run over. While it is unfortunate that the man sustained serious injuries, his actions in attempting to escape would have created a reasonable apprehension that the first officer’s life was in danger. The force that was used to address that danger was reasonable given all of the circumstances.

After reviewing the investigation, ASIRT executive director Susan D. Hughson, QC concluded that the evidence does not provide reasonable grounds, nor even reasonable suspicion, to believe either officer committed any Criminal Codeoffence. Both officers were lawfully placed, and the force employed was reasonable in the circumstances. As such, no charges are appropriate.

ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently and objectively investigate incidents involving police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.