Blue Line

Family of Ontario gunsmith killed by police questions watchdog’s investigation

March 9, 2022  By The Canadian Press

Mar. 8, 2022, Port Dover, Ont. – An investigation into the police shooting death of a 70-year-old gunsmith in southwestern Ontario is “filled with holes,” his family claimed Tuesday.

The Special Investigations Unit said last week that a Toronto police officer acted legally when he shot and killed Rodger Kotanko outside Port Dover, Ont., on Nov. 3, 2021.

Toronto police had raided his home as part of an investigation into alleged gun-trafficking offences, the SIU said. The unit said officers went with guns drawn into the gunsmith’s workshop. Kotanko then picked up a gun, the SIU said, and pointed it at an officer, who then shot him multiple times.

The SIU said the officer was acting in self defence.

The family took issue with that conclusion at a news conference held Tuesday.

“There are too many holes, too many questions why,” said Suzanne Kantor outside her brother’s home in Simcoe, Ont. “We demand answers.”

The family said it will seek justice through a $23-million civil lawsuit it filed last month, alleging Toronto police acted recklessly and with negligence when they killed Kotanko.

Kotanko did not have a violent past, the SIU noted, and Toronto police did not send its tactical squad for that reason.

“They’re saying he reached for his gun, pointed it at the officer who had a gun trained on him with his finger on the trigger—really?” said Kotanko’s brother, Jeff Kotanko.

“He wasn’t Billy the Kid, nobody in their right mind would possibly even consider doing that.”

Jeff Kotanko also said the gun the SIU said his brother picked up had been unloaded as the gunsmith worked on it and wasn’t operational at the time.

The SIU said police had traced guns allegedly used in other crimes back to Kotanko’s company.

“My brother was a good man,” Jeff Kotanko said. “He could be grumpy, we all know that, but it doesn’t matter, he would never do this.”

The SIU said Rodger Kotanko had just got home with his wife when he met a customer outside. Kotanko and the unnamed customer went into the workshop next to his home.

The family questioned why police, who received approval for a search warrant earlier that day and then drove from Toronto, did not try to talk to Kotanko in a safe place, rather than bursting into his gunshop.

“When police knew Rodger was out, when he arrived at this very driveway, they could have stopped him at this point,” said the family’s lawyer, Michael Smitiuch.

It was also concerning that they let Kotanko walk into the shop with a customer, he said.

He said police should have know that Kotanko may very well be working on a gun in his gunshop.

“If they were going to exercise a search warrant at a butcher shop and they open the door and the butcher had a knife, does that give them the justification to shoot and kill that butcher?” Smitiuch said. “I don’t think so.”

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