The family of Andrew Baryluk, a man who died during a 17-hour standoff with police, are questioning how well Winnipeg officers are trained.
Colleen Baryluk, Andrew’s sister-in-law, said more should have been done to help him.
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“They didn’t call us. They could have said, ‘Hey, come on down.’ I mean, they were on the phone with him. Why not us? Why couldn’t they have had us on the phone with him?” said Colleen.
Around 11 a.m. on July 30, police got a call that Andrew had barricaded himself in a home on Stella Avenue and could have a weapon or gun.
According to police, officers were also told Andrew had made threats to harm himself.
The 52 year old did not want to leave the family's long-time home despite its sale to a neighbour, Colleen said.
“He wasn’t a hermit. I mean, he had so many friends. He had a million friends, but that home was all he had,” she said.
Officers were able to make contact with Andrew via telephone but that connection was later lost. Shots were fired into and out of the home when officers tried to bring a second communication device to Andrew.
By 3 a.m., officers entered the home and found Andrew dead. Winnipeg police later revealed he died of a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound.
No national standard for police mental health training
Manitoba Schizophrenia Society’s Chris Summerville said Andrew was likely under a lot of stress and the presence of a tactical unit could have triggered his anxiety.
Summerville said he wants to know what tactics were used to deescalate the situation.
“Did they consult with any mental health professionals at the scene? We know, and the literature tells us, that typical tactical techniques or swat team techniques do not work,” said Summerville. "Typical tactical techniques don't work with people with mental illness because they may have interference from hearing voices [or] having hallucinations and delusions."
He said Canadian police officers get anywhere from two to 40 hours of mental health training, but there is no national standard.
“Often it’s said that there is a zero-tolerance towards use of weapons. I understand that, but there should also be the mentality towards zero-death tolerance,” said Summerville.
Weapons change officer response, police say
Winnipeg police won’t comment further on the specifics of the incident, but Const. Eric Hofley said all officers do receive mental health training.
In non-emergency situations, police will try to involve families or contact the mobile crisis unit, a team of mental health professionals that attend scenes with officers.
But Hofley said there are some situations where decisions need to be made quickly.
“If there are indications that a person has a weapon then that will change the response for sure,” he said.
The investigation into Andrew’s death continues.