Family 'more than outraged' after police officer involved in 2 fatal shootings within year
Officer had not yet been cleared by ASIRT when he was involved in second killing
The Calgary police officer who shot and killed Anthony Heffernan in a motel room last year — and has not yet been cleared of wrongdoing — was also involved in the shooting death of another man, according to CBC sources.
The officer was one of three who opened fire on Dave McQueen on Jan. 25, a man in a wheelchair who was killed after engaging in a shootout with police.
Less than a year before, that same officer shot Anthony Heffernan four times — including three to the head, according to family — killing him in a hotel room in March 2015.
"I am more than outraged that this happened to somebody else in Calgary," said Grant Heffernan, Anthony's brother.
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The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has completed its investigation into the killing, according to the Heffernan family's lawyer, and handed its findings over to the Alberta Crown to determine if the officer will be charged criminally.
Grant Heffernan says his family was told by ASIRT that the officer had not returned to work as of November 2015, but was trying to get back on the job.
Though it would not have been ideal, the Heffernan family says they could have handled the officer being on administrative duty but not out on the streets.
"This is unfathomable that this happened and is totally unacceptable," said Grant Heffernan.
His 27-year-old brother died in the Super 8 Motel on Barlow Trail on March 16 after police responded to a report of a man behaving strangely.
Police said Anthony was agitated and in medical distress inside the locked motel room. The family says they were told Anthony was holding a lighter in one hand and a syringe in the other when he was shot.
A Taser had been used, but it did not subdue him.
The family said he struggled with addiction in the past but that his career and his day-to-day life were not normally affected by it.
'Frankly it's shocking'
The circumstances surrounding Anthony's death are "highly questionable," according to the Heffernan family's lawyer, Tom Engel.
"Frankly, it's shocking," said Engel of the officer's return to street duties before he was cleared by ASIRT and the Alberta Crown.
"You have to respect the presumption of innocence," said Engel, "I don't think that you should necessarily suspend the officer from all police duties, but you certainly would take him off the street so that he wouldn't be in a position to do that again."
The family has filed a complaint under the Police Act, according to Engel, who says the case can go before the law enforcement review board even if charges aren't laid against the officer.
The Heffernan family has always been critical of Calgary police's actions and say the situation should never have escalated to the point where a man who had missed his check-out time, and was considered to be in medical distress, was shot and killed by police.
After an officer is involved in a shooting, he or she is placed on administrative leave for a minimum of 30 days. At the end, an evaluation determines whether the officer can return and if restrictions will be placed on them.
It's unclear in this case if the officer was under any restrictions.
Huntington Hills shoot-out
January's Huntington Hills shooting was different in that Dave McQueen shot several rounds out into the community and directly at police officers. The neighbourhood was on lockdown for two hours, with residents ordered to their basements.
A city bus driver was narrowly missed by a bullet as the shooter aimed from inside his home and shot into the street.
Authorization for use of force was given to responding officers by the incident commander, according to sources.
McQueen reportedly lifted a gun to his shoulder while in his doorway, prompting those three officers to fire their weapons.
A tactical team officer, and one each from districts 4 and 5 fired at McQueen. The District 5 officer is the one who was involved in both shootings, although many officers from several districts responded to the active shooter call.
'Accountability and justice'
ASIRT did not respond to CBC's request for information or a comment on the situation.
CPS said it could not comment given both shootings are "active investigative files."
Though police may not have had any choice but to kill Dave McQueen, the Heffernans feel Anthony's death was preventable and they want the officer who killed him to be held accountable.
"The only way there is going to be any accountability and justice, is if the subject officer who killed my brother ... faces criminal prosecution."
- An earlier version of this story had the headline: Anthony Heffernan, Dave McQueen both shot by same Calgary police officer. In fact, a later ASIRT investigation suggested that although he opened fire at McQueen, it was another officer who fatally shot McQueen.Jan 22, 2020 3:16 PM MT