No Charges Warranted in Gunfight in Pelham Apartment
Case Number: 15-OFI-236
Other News Releases Related to Case 15-OFI-236
Mississauga, ON (28 July, 2016) —
The Acting Director of the Special Investigations Unit has determined that no charges are warranted following an incident where a man and Niagara Regional Police officers shot at each other and the man and one officer were seriously wounded.
The SIU assigned seven investigators and three forensic investigators to carefully examine the circumstances of this incident.
Both subject officers declined to participate in an SIU interview and did not provide a copy of their duty notes, as is their legal right.
Evidence gathered as part of this investigation included the following:
- interviews with 18 civilians;
- interviews with 13 witness officers (including two officers who were present throughout the entire incident and shooting) and a review of their duty notes;
- review of the duty notes of a further three witness officers;
- scene examination;
- police communication recordings;
- cell phone records;
- forensic analysis of the firearms, shell cases, and bullets fragments; and
- medical evidence.
The SIU investigation determined the following:
- On October 10, 2015, Niagara Regional Police received information concerning a 28-year-old man who was depressed, suicidal, and in possession of several firearms and possibly bomb-making material.
- Just before 8:00 p.m., several officers – including the two subject officers – arrived at the apartment building where the man lived.
- Officers evacuated the residential units on the third floor, where the man resided, and took up positions at either end of the hallway from the man’s apartment, awaiting the arrival of a tactical unit.
- Moments later, the man stepped out of his apartment into the hallway.
- The man quickly re-entered the apartment and closed the door. In the brief moment when the door was opened, officers observed that he had several long guns.
- Witness officer #1 spoke to man through the door. After several minutes of conversation, the officer holstered his firearm and raised his hands in front of the man’s peep hole to assure the man he meant him no harm, whereupon the man agreed to exit his apartment.
- When the man stepped out a few minutes later, he had his hands up and it appeared that he was surrendering peacefully.
- However, as he took several steps in the direction of Witness officers #1 and #2, the man pulled a handgun from his waistband and started shooting at the officers.
- Witness officer #1 was struck and fell to the floor.
- Witness officer #2 attempted to shoot at the man but the officer’s rifle jammed before discharging any rounds.
- The two subject officers at the end of the hallway fired their weapons and the 28-year-old man was struck and incapacitated.
- In total, 17 bullets were fired: three by Subject officer #1; four by Subject officer #2; one by Witness officer #1; and nine by the 28-year-old man.
- The man and Witness officer #1 were rushed to hospital having both sustained serious, life-threatening injuries. Each survived.
SIU Acting Director Joseph Martino said, “Whether under section 25(3) of the Criminal Code, limiting the use of lethal force by officers in the execution of their duties, or section 34, outlining when persons may use force to defend themselves or others, it is evident on the record gathered in this investigation that the officers were justified in shooting at the man.
“The officers were lawfully present on the third floor in response to information that the man, depressed and suicidal, had plenty of firepower and intentions of using it to end his own life and possibly the lives of others. They acted professionally and did well to quickly evacuate the residents in the firing line before taking up positions to contain the man should he emerge from the apartment. It was a good thing they did so. When he was first seen, the man had several long guns in his possession and one can only speculate what he might have done with them had he not been confronted by the officers. Consider also the scene: these were tight quarters and the officers had little to no benefit of distance or cover when the man left his apartment, acted as if he was surrendering and then drew a concealed handgun and started firing. The two witness officers, in particular, were severely exposed, being closest to the man and were shot at point blank range before they were able to react, Witness officer #1 sustaining a very serious wound in the process.
“In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the officers were faced with a clear and present danger as the man stepped from his apartment and started shooting in their direction, and that they were well within their rights in responding with gunfire of their own. Indeed, it seems likely that the man would have killed one or more of the officers had they not reacted as quickly and forcefully as they did with their own weapons. For the foregoing reasons, there are no grounds to proceed with charges in this case.”