Calgary officer who shot at man in stolen car acted reasonably: police watchdog

The Canadian Press
September 11, 2018
By The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Alberta’s police watchdog has cleared a Calgary officer who fired 11 shots in less than three seconds at a man inside a stolen car, saying the use of force was reasonable given the danger.

Officers came across a Honda Civic committing a traffic offence on the evening of Nov. 3, 2016. A search of the licence plate determined it was stolen.

The car went into an alley and stopped in front of a closed garage door. The police vehicle, with its lights on, pulled up behind the car’s driver’s side. A 20-year-old man was alone inside.

“He initially appeared calm and compliant — but without warning, the man placed the Civic in reverse and backed up, colliding with the police vehicle. He then drove forward and to the left of the front end of the police vehicle,” the Alberta Serious Incident Response team said in a release Friday.

The confrontation was captured on the police vehicle’s video system.

One of the officers was dangling from the car’s driver’s side window trying to remove its keys and put it in park. A second officer ran to the passenger side with his service pistol drawn.

Then the car reversed, causing the first officer’s legs to hit the police vehicle and the car to collide with another parked vehicle.

“The man’s operation of the stolen Civic created a danger that exposed the first officer to a risk of imminent death or grievous bodily harm,” ASIRT said.

“The fact that the officer was not seriously hurt was likely nothing more than luck, considering the man had narrowly missed crushing the officer between the stolen vehicle and the two stationary vehicles in his path as he quickly reversed the Civic.”

As the first officer struggled on the driver’s side, the officer on the passenger side fired 11 shots at the man in 2.73 seconds. The man was treated in hospital for four gunshot wounds and survived with severe injuries to his arm and side.

“While it is unfortunate that the man sustained serious injuries, his actions in attempting to escape would have created a reasonable apprehension that the first officer’s life was in danger,” ASIRT said. “The force that was used to address that danger was reasonable given all of the circumstances.”

There was a separate investigation into two other officers who arrived later and punched and kicked the man. They, too, will not be charged.

ASIRT said Friday the first set of punches by one officer and initial kicks from another could be considered reasonable.

“The greater challenge arises with the respect to the second set of kicks, administered after a pause in the action ... and after officers had effectively been called off by the primary officer dealing with the man,” ASIRT said in a release.

“On the available evidence, it is more difficult to see this use of force as reasonably necessary. Objectively, the actions could be viewed as unnecessary, punitive and the result of heightened emotions rather than tactical need.”

However, Crown prosecutors, who act independently from the police watchdog, have decided not to lay any charges because there is not a reasonable likelihood of conviction.

- Lauren Krugel

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2018

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