Toronto officer involved in Distillery District shooting is former soldier
Results of internal investigation into shooting incident expected soon, says police union head
A Toronto police officer who fired 15 shots into a stopped car in the Distillery District in September served in Afghanistan as a reserve member of the Canadian Forces, CBC News has learned.
- Toronto police open fire on car, arrest 1 in Distillery District
- Arrest in Distillery District, where officer shot vehicle multiple times, investigated
Const. Tash Baiati has remained on duty since the Sept. 16 police takedown of a car and driver at around 1 p.m. near a public space at Parliament and Mill streets.
The car had just been stopped and was boxed in by fellow officers in the Distillery District when Baiati shot 15 rounds from his 9 mm pistol into the car's engine. The driver of the car was not hit.
Dozens of witnesses saw the dramatic arrest and many said they were shocked by the gunfire.
CBC News has confirmed that Baiati was a reservist in the Queen's Own Rifles, and he spent time in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces in 2003 and 2004.
The Department of National Defence says Baiati was still a reservist as of December 2015. It's believed he joined the Toronto Police Service sometime after 2009.
An internal investigation into last September's incident is underway, which is routine whenever an officer discharges a weapon. The investigation is not a criminal probe, Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, told CBC News, and Baiati is not facing criminal charges.
On Tuesday, McCormack said the investigation is essentially done and a decision on whether any internal disciplinary action will be taken is coming soon.
"It's been several months. We anticipate a decision one way or the other, hopefully within the next couple of weeks," McCormack said. "A decision is imminent, I would say."
Toronto Police corporate communications could not confirm Tuesday evening whether a decision is, in fact, expected soon.
CBC's attempts to reach Baiati at his Toronto police email address and phone number were unsuccessful.
Privately, some of Baiati's fellow officers have expressed concern to CBC News about the shooting.
'It's the officer's perception'
Police are trained not to fire pistols into cars due to the danger of ricocheting bullets that could injure officers or bystanders. The Toronto Police Service has a specific policy that prohibits shooting at a vehicle to disable it, McCormack said.
However, an officer can discharge his or her weapon when he or she "has a fear of grievous bodily harm or death," he said.
"So it's the officer's perception and experience of what comes into play here," he said.
Pistols are also normally ineffective at piercing a car's engine.
A bystander caught the incident on camera and the video appears to show one of Baiati's fellow officers startled by the gunfire and jumping out of the way.
McCormack said the investigation will come down to Baiati's police training.
"What is relevant is: how was he trained as a police officer, what is his training, did he comply with his training and did he follow procedure? That is how he will be judged," McCormack said.
In December 2014, Baiati received a Toronto Police Service award for "exceptional performance of duty and dedicated service to the community."