SIU will not charge police officer who shot and killed Ontario gunsmith
March 4, 2022 By The Canadian Press
Mar. 3, 2022, Toronto, Ont. – Ontario’s police watchdog won’t charge a Toronto officer who shot and killed a 70-year-old gunsmith near Port Dover, Ont., last year, saying the officer had split seconds to make a “life-or-death” decision.
Joseph Martino, director of the Special Investigations Unit, said the officer was acting in self-defence when he shot Rodger Kotanko four times, as the gunsmith refused to put his hands up and instead pointed a firearm at the officers.
“At a distance of no more than a few metres from (Kotanko), it is difficult to imagine what else the (officer) could have done to protect himself,” Martino wrote in his report on the Nov. 3 shooting. “…I am unable to fault the officer for choosing to meet a reasonably apprehended threat of imminent and lethal force with a resort to lethal force of his own.”
A lawyer for Kotanko’s family said they are “shocked and saddened” by the decision.
“The Kotanko family is taking time to review and absorb the report, and try to understand how a customer’s life could be endangered and Rodger killed without a single police officer taking any responsibility,” Michael Smitiuch said in an emailed statement.
The family filed a wrongful death suit earlier this year, alleging officers failed to present Kotanko with their search warrant and “attacked Rodger while he was in the workshop with the alleged customer.”
Martino’s report paints a different picture.
“It is true that the (two police officers) entered the workshop with their guns drawn and immediately asked that (Kotanko and the customer) raise their hands, but these would appear to have been reasonable precautions in the circumstances,” he wrote.
“They were, after all, investigating a serious criminal offence and had reason to believe that there would likely be firearms in the workshop – (Kotanko) was a gunsmith.”
Officers were investigating allegations of firearms trafficking, Martino said, and had obtained a warrant to search Kotanko’s home and workshop.
“Firearms had been recovered in two separate police investigations, including a kidnapping, that were registered to a firearms business owned by the Complainant,” Martino’s report reads. “In neither case had the Complainant, a gunsmith, reported the firearms stolen or missing, and thus it was suspected that he or an associate had illegally traded in firearms.”
When they arrived on scene, the SIU said, Kotanko was in his workshop with a customer who had brought a newly purchased gun to be repaired.
The officers – who were wearing vests that said “police” – approached the workshop and called out that they were police and had a warrant, the report said. They shouted for both men to raise their hands.
The customer complied, but the SIU said Kotanko didn’t.
“Within seconds of their entry, he reached with his right hand towards the workbench, retrieved (the customer’s) firearm, and turned with it in the officers’ direction as they yelled at him to ‘drop the gun,’” Martino wrote.
One of the officers shot Kotanko four times, Martino said. He died after being taken to hospital.
“(Another officer) standing beside the (first officer) and similarly situated to his colleague, says that he feared for their lives at that moment, and that he was just about to fire his weapon to defend himself when he heard his colleague’s firearm being discharged,” Martino said.
Kotanko’s family said their civil suit will go ahead.
Print this page