Blue Line

Man shot by Winnipeg police was having a mental health crisis, lawyer says

January 2, 2024  By The Canadian Press

Jan. 2, 2024, Winnipeg, Man. – A 19-year-old university student fatally shot by a Winnipeg officer was having a mental health crisis and was reported to police by friends, a lawyer for the man’s family said Tuesday.

“We want to make sure the proper investigation is conducted,” Jean-Rene Dominique Kwilu said.

Police have said officers responded to a call about someone acting erratically at an apartment near the University of Manitoba on Sunday afternoon and were confronted by a 19-year-old man armed with two knives. One of the officers shot him, and he was taken to hospital in critical condition where he later died, police Chief Danny Smyth told reporters Monday.

Kwilu said the man shot was Afolabi Stephen Opaso, an economics undergraduate student from Nigeria. Kwilu has been helping Opaso’s family in Nigeria.


Opaso had experienced a mental health crisis last summer, he said, and had another crisis on New Year’s Eve while in an apartment with two friends, who called police.

“They made a call to 911, they’re deposing, and they said they made sure to mention this was a mental health situation, that this is their friend and they’re not in danger,” Kwilu said. “Afolabi was in the living room, they were in the bedrooms, and when the police arrived, Afolabi opened the door, and after that (the friends) just heard ‘Drop your knife, drop your knife’ and then they heard three gunshots.”

The matter is being investigated by the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, a provincial body that investigates serious incidents involving police. As such, the Winnipeg Police Service would not comment Tuesday.

Opaso’s family is looking for answers as to why the call was not treated as a mental health situation, which could have allowed a mental health expert to join the response, Kwilu said.

The police force, the city and health officials started a program two years ago that allows a specialized mental health clinician to attend wellness checks along with officers.

Opaso’s family is also looking to prepare funeral arrangements and have his body brought home, Kwilu said.

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