IIU hears victim high on meth during fatal Maples shooting

IIU clears Winnipeg officer after fatal shooting in The Maples

Winnipeg police officer cleared of any wrongdoing in 2017 incident

Manitoba's IIU has cleared an officer of any wrongdoing after a fatal shooting last year. (Travis Golby/CBC)

A Winnipeg police officer will face no disciplinary action in the fatal shooting of a 33-year-old man in The Maples last year, although a report into the man's death questions if more could have been done to prevent the shooting. 

The Independent Investigation Unit released its final report Monday into the shooting, which happened on Sept. 23, 2017 on Madrigal Close. It cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. 

The report states that officers were called to the house by the man's mother at about 4 p.m., who told 911 operators that her son, identified in the report as AP, was high on meth.

"He's paranoid, he's delusional, he thinks that ... everybody's out to get him," she told the operator. 

She said her son was clutching knives and attacked her other son, the man's brother. The operator could hear screaming and crying in the background, said the report.

Also in the house was the mother's boyfriend, who initially managed to calm AP down, but described AP's eyes like saucers and glossy in appearance. 

"AP kept saying, 'If I go outside they're going to kill me'" the boyfriend told the IIU and became more agitated when police arrived.

The IIU report states police sent five cruiser cars to the house. The officer, called the Subject Officer (SO) in the report, told investigators he and his partner approached the house with their guns drawn after being told someone was armed inside.

Several evidence markers could be seen on the pavement and lawns near the home. (Julianne Runne/CBC)

The SO said he knocked loudly on the door and yelled "Police! Open the door!" Through the door window he could see a man, who said "No! You're going to have to kick it down!" The man then ran into a different room.

The SO started kicking down the door as other officers arrived, pausing only to ask for a battering ram to help break down the door. Several officers told the IIU that they could hear yelling inside the house, indicating someone might be in danger. 

After successfully kicking down the door, the SO said AP lunged at him, swinging a knife in his face. The officer managed to avoid being cut across the face, but believed his life was in danger, he told the IIU. 

The officer tried to shoot his gun with both hands, but was unable to do so. He instead shot his gun "four or five times" at AP using his right hand only. AP fell to the floor.

After the shooting, the officer realized he had a knife blade embedded in his left arm.

AP's brother had fled to a bedroom for safety along with the mother's boyfriend and did not see his AP get shot. AP's mother had run out of the house using a side door, into the arms of a female officer, before AP was shot, she said.

Police performed first aid on AP until paramedics arrived. The autopsy report showed his cause of death as "multiple gunshot wounds." The report also states the pathologist believed "that the symptoms and actions displayed by AP that day were consistent with the premise he was under the influence of methamphetamine."

No wrongdoing

Citing several sections of the Criminal Code of Canada, the IIU concluded the SO's actions to shoot AP were justified.

"Reasonableness of an officer's use of force must be assessed in regards to the circumstances as they existed at the time the force was used," writes Zane Tessler, the IIU's civilian director.

"SO was in a potentially volatile and lethal situation … it was reasonable to believe that AP had the means and intention to cause grievous bodily injury to SO, [his partner] and the other occupants of the residence.

"I am not satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that SO exceeded the ambit of justifiable force by use of lethal force in these circumstances."

The report also notes that officers were called to the same house for a similar situation involving AP about two weeks earlier. There, police found AP in the basement, two knives in his hands. He dropped them when told to do so by officers.

He was taken to hospital, but released later the same day, and officers were called back to the house when AP started damaging the residence. 

"This issue does raise concerns respecting the identification and treatment of drug abuse and mental health problems," wrote Tessler. 

"Considering the very similar factual circumstances... one wonders whether a different response, approach or treatment plan would have affected AP's future conduct."

Tessler then notes the issue is beyond the IIU's mandate, but encouraged provincial agencies  to "review the adequacy of responses with dealing with drug abuse and mental health concerns."

The IIU's full report can be found on their website.