Police Cleared of Sherbourne (Toronto) Shooting in November 2014 – #SIU

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Case Number: 13-TFD-265

Mississauga (2 January, 2015) —

The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Tony Loparco, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge any officer with the Toronto Police Service (TPS) with a criminal offence in connection with the shooting death of a 31-year-old man in November of last year.
The SIU assigned eight investigators and four forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, 15 witness officers and 12 civilian witnesses were interviewed. Two officers were designated as subject officers. One subject officer consented to an interview and provided the SIU with a copy of his notes. The second officer declined to be interviewed or to provide a copy of his duty notes, as is his legal right. The SIU also gathered additional evidence from the SIU forensic examination of the scene, the police communications recordings and video recordings at Sherbourne Street.
The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on Wednesday, November 13, 2013:
  • At approximately 12:30 p.m., two TPS Service officers approached the man on Sherbourne Street.  The officers were aware of an outstanding warrant for the man’s arrest and were attempting to carry out that arrest.
  • The man fled from the officers and, as he was running, fell and pointed a pistol at one of the officers.
  • A civilian witness, who was very close to both the officer and the man, saw the gun in the man’s hand, dropped his bike and took cover across the street.
  • The officer drew his firearm but did not shoot at the man.
  • The man ran up the front steps of 433 Sherbourne Street, took cover in the alcove at the front door of the building, and fired his pistol several times in the direction of the officer.  The video recording obtained from 433 Sherbourne Street clearly shows the man pointing the gun toward the officer.
  • The officer heard the gun being discharged, although the sound of the firearm suggested that the gun was a cap gun or a pellet gun. This in fact was the case. Unfortunately, there is no indication that the officer’s description of the sound, and the possibility that the gun was a pellet gun, was ever passed along to other officers.  Responding officers were only informed of the fact that the man had earlier discharged a firearm at officers.
  • The man then ran to the rear porch of 437 Sherbourne Street. While positioned there, he repeatedly pointed his gun toward Sherbourne Street and the officers who were located in that direction.
  • Other uniform patrol officers, including one who was armed with a C8 rifle and who was positioned in an apartment at 435 Sherbourne Street (where the Emergency Task Force (ETF) later took over the scene) saw the man repeatedly point his pistol in the direction of the officers at the front of the address.
  • At 1:44 p.m. ETF officers arrived on scene and took over control of the situation.
  • An ETF negotiator made numerous attempts to reason with the man.
  • As the negotiator was trying to coax the man into surrendering, the man rose up from where he had been crouching behind an overturned table (used to barricade himself on the porch), leaned forward quickly and pointed his pistol toward Sherbourne Street and in the direction that other officers were positioned.
  • That action and the swift manner in which it occurred caused one of the subject officers to call out that the man had his gun pointed at officers.
  • Shortly thereafter, the two subject officers discharged their firearms striking the man. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Director Loparco stated, “In the final analysis, I am satisfied that the subject officers acted in the reasonable belief that the lives of their team members and other officers were in imminent peril. Based on the evidence the subject officers were justified in discharging their firearms pursuant to section 34 of the Criminal Code.  In the aftermath of the incident it was discovered that the man was actually armed with a pellet gun, not a genuine firearm.  However, that fact would not have been apparent at the time of the shooting.  In fact, everyone who observed the gun felt the opposite was true.  The subject officer who spoke to the SIU indicated he believed the gun was a real handgun. So did the other officers who had an opportunity to observe the gun. And that was the belief of the civilian who observed the gun in the man’s hands from under five feet away on Sherbourne Street. The witness officers who observed it all described it as a semi-automatic type handgun. A physical examination of the “gun” also confirms its realistic appearance.
Director Loparco concluded, “While the officers may have been mistaken as to the type of weapon the man had in his possession, it was a mistake that was reasonable in the circumstances. In the end, given the ‘facts’ available to the ETF officers, I am satisfied that the subject officers reasonably believed that the lives of their fellow officers were in danger at the time they discharged their guns; that is, they had information that the man had fired upon officers prior to their arrival, they were told that he had been flagged as having mental instability, that he was violent, and that members of the ETF and perhaps other officers were located in the general direction of the man’s pointed firearm. When the man sprung up quickly from his hiding spot with his arms outstretched and pointed what appeared to be a real firearm in the general direction of fellow members of their team they were entitled to resort to lethal force to preserve those around them. The fact that the two shots were taken by two officers from different vantage points at virtually the identical time, with each officer reacting independently to his own assessment of the threat, bolsters my opinion of the reasonableness of their perception of the threat posed by the man at that time.”

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must

  • consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence  in connection with the incident under investigation
  • depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
  • report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General.

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