On that day, at about 9:40 p.m., the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) received a call reporting an alleged hit-and-run accident on Yellowhead Trail near 66 Street. The caller provided a licence plate number and description of the car that, a police check revealed, had been reported as stolen. Police were immediately dispatched to the area.
Two EPS officers attended the scene, a small auto dealership just off Yellowhead Trail and 66 Street, in an unmarked police vehicle. While the unit was unmarked, the emergency police lights were activated, and, as confirmed by civilian witnesses, the fully uniformed officers and unmarked vehicle were both easily identifiable as police.
As the car had been identified as a stolen vehicle, and had allegedly been involved in a hit-and-run accident, officers parked the police vehicle in a manner intended to box that vehicle in, to prevent a possible criminal flight. The vehicle had heavily tinted windows, which severely limited the officers’ ability to see inside it. Two men were visible in the front seats of the vehicle, but it was unknown at the time whether anyone else might be inside. As they exited their police vehicle, one officer approached the driver’s side of the man’s vehicle, while a second officer approached the passenger side.
Both officers gave loud verbal commands for the occupants to exit the vehicle. The front passenger door opened and the man occupying the passenger’s seat exited the vehicle with his hands up, and lay down on the ground as instructed. This man later told ASIRT investigators that the driver had a gun in his lap and had told the passenger to get out of the vehicle.
As one of the officers approached the stolen vehicle from the rear on the driver’s side, he noticed that the tinted rear door window on the driver’s side of the vehicle was rolled down several inches. The officer pointed his flashlight through the gap and observed a long-barrelled firearm in the man’s possession, pointed towards the passenger side of the vehicle. This officer yelled “Gun, get back” at the other officer, and commanded the man to drop the weapon. The man verbally refused, stating that he would not drop the gun, that officers would have to shoot him, and that he would shoot police. The officer observed the man raise his gun, pointed in the direction of the officer on the passenger side. In response to these actions, the officer discharged multiple rounds from his service pistol as the man fired a shot in the direction of the officer on the passenger side of the stolen vehicle.
The officer cleared the vehicle to ensure no other occupants were inside while the other officer maintained control of the passenger. EMS immediately attended the location and, upon their arrival, declared the man deceased on scene.
The man’s firearm was a loaded, sawed-off .30-30-calibre lever-action rifle with one spent cartridge inside the chamber. Subsequent to the shooting, the deceased driver of the stolen vehicle was identified as a 30-year-old man who was, at the time of the incident, unlawfully at large in relation to a federal prison sentence and was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant. An autopsy confirmed the man’s cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds. A toxicology report confirmed the presence of alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, and cannabis in the man’s body.
Under the Criminal Code, a police officer is authorized to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to carry out their lawful duties. In circumstances where an officer believes, on reasonable grounds, that force is necessary to protect themselves or others from death or grievous bodily harm, the force an officer is entitled to use can include potentially lethal force.
In this case, the involved officers were acting within the scope of their lawful duties, and had reasonable grounds to believe that the men had committed an offence. When the man seated in the driver’s seat failed to follow verbal commands to drop the gun and exit the vehicle, and began to raise the firearm in the direction of an officer, he created a risk that was both potentially lethal and immediate. When he actually fired upon that officer, the man demonstrated not just a theoretical risk but an actual real, substantial, and immediate threat to the officer’s life. In the face of this immediate and significant danger, the officer who fired his service weapon was lawfully justified in doing so in defence of himself and the second officer.
After considering all of the circumstances of this matter, it is the opinion of executive director Susan Hughson, Q.C., that the evidence does not provide reasonable grounds, nor even reasonable suspicion, to believe that the officer who fired committed an offence.
The officer’s use of lethal force, which he resorted to only after the man failed to comply with commands and escalated the situation by raising his gun, and, ultimately, firing on police, was reasonable. The risk presented by these actions was both serious and immediate, and both objectively and subjectively gave rise to a risk of grievous bodily harm or death. The decision of the officer to fire his service weapon was lawful, justified and reasonably necessary.
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.
This release is distributed by the Government of Alberta on behalf of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.
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