The provincial Special Investigations Unit has cleared a Hamilton police officer of any wrongdoing after a distressed man he was attempting to negotiate with shot himself in the head earlier this year.
The incident happened on March 19. According to the SIU, police rushed to a home on Woodman Drive North at around 5:30 p.m. for a “possibly suicidal man.”
Halton regional police had told Hamilton police that a woman, who was in a relationship with the man, had gotten a text message with a picture of gun and she was worried he would hurt himself, the SIU says.
Officers set up a command post near the home and the subject officer in the investigation took control of the operation. A van with emergency response officers in it rolled up to the front of the home about 6:50 p.m. That’s when the subject officer in the SIU’s investigation started trying to talk to the man by phone.
The officer repeatedly asked the man to leave the home, but he refused, and instead asked that the woman he was seeing call him. The officer told him that was unlikely. The first conversation between the man and the officer ended about 7 p.m., the SIU says.
Not long after, the officer called the man again and they spoke. The man asked to speak with the woman he had been dating again, and said he’d sent her text messages and called her, but didn’t get any answer.
The woman had gone to the police station in Burlington and was told by police there not to answer his messages, the SIU says. The officer told the man he wouldn’t be able to speak with her.
In a news release, SIU director Tony Loparco wrote that he was “unable to find fault” with the decision to keep the two from speaking to each other.
“They were aware that the root of the man’s emotional upheaval was a faltering relationship with the woman,” Loparco said. “In the circumstances, they were right to conclude that communication between the two could as easily have set him off as it might have quelled the situation.”
The officer again asked the man to leave the home, and he told the officer he would call him again in five minutes. That conversation ended at 7:10 p.m., the SIU says. Police then tried to get a hold of him by phone, text message and loudspeaker until about 9 p.m.
At 11:08 p.m., officers found the man in a bedroom on the top floor of the home. He had shot himself in the head and was dead, the SIU says.
Loparco says that some people might take issue with how long it took for police to go into the home and find the man, but that those concerns are “easily dismissed.”
“The officers knew the man was suicidal and emotionally unstable. They knew he was armed with a firearm and had threatened to use it,” he said. “In the circumstances, it seems to me that the officers acted sensibly in exercising extreme caution and that their operational decision-making and execution proceeded as quickly as circumstances permitted.”
“I am satisfied that the police response was entirely reasonable throughout this chain of events."