ASIRT clears police of wrongdoing in fatal northeast Calgary gunfight

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says a man involved in a gunfight with Calgary police died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head and that the officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the shootout. 

Officers exchanged fire with a man holed up in a burning garage in March of last year

Investigators search a burned-out garage where a man was found dead after a police standoff in March 2018. (CBC)

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says a man involved in a gunfight with Calgary police died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head and that the officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the shootout. 

Only one of the officers involved in the shootout provided a statement, while the other two declined. ASIRT says it is their right to do so. 

The incident took place on March 27, 2018, in the northeast community of Abbeydale. 

Police had been called for reports of an armed robbery and two attempted carjackings starting at 9:26 a.m.

At 9:48 a.m., a woman called to report that her 11-year-old daughter was home alone and a man was banging on the door with a pipe. 

The girl was found unharmed and the man was nowhere to be found, but blood was found on a sliding door. Police searched the area for an hour without success. 

"Given the close proximity in time, the locations of the four incidents, and the consistent general description of the man, police reasonably believed the events were likely related. Additionally, police would have reasonably believed that the involved man could be, or was, in possession of a firearm," reads an ASIRT news release.

Sound of breaking glass

Officers returning to their vehicle following the unsuccessful search heard the sound of breaking glass and ran in the direction of a house with their guns drawn, according to ASIRT.

"As the officers approached the backyard, the garage window appeared to be broken, with black smoke coming out of it. The officers could see movement inside," reads the release. 

"One of the officers saw a muzzle flash from the window and they heard gunshots directed toward where the officers were. The two officers returned fire toward the garage window."

According to ASIRT, one officer said he shot approximately eight rounds at the garage before he saw his partner fall to the ground and yell that he had been hit. 

Another officer came to rescue the fallen officer while the partner provided cover fire until he ran out of bullets. 

The fallen officer received medical care on scene and was rushed to hospital, suffering from a single gunshot wound that ricocheted through his body. 

Situation escalated quickly

ASIRT said the scene unfolded quickly and there was no communication with the suspect or opportunities to de-escalate the situation. 

From the time the officers heard the sound of breaking glass, it was only 19 seconds before shots were exchanged. 

"Following the initial exchange of gunfire, CPS officers surrounded the garage, providing containment as the fire inside the garage continued to progress," reads the ASIRT release. 

"Sporadic gunfire continued to emerge from the garage over the next 55 minutes. At 12:11 p.m., the man fired a shot out of the garage and an officer discharged his firearm once. Ultimately, a CPS tactical unit armoured vehicle was used to open the door of the garage, by which time the building was fully engulfed in flames and it was clear that no one could survive inside."

The fire department was called in to extinguish the flames and the body of the 25-year-old man was located inside along with a "heavily fire-damaged, sawed-off bolt action rifle."

ASIRT says an autopsy confirmed the man died from a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head before he would have succumbed to the fire. The agency says methamphetamine was found in his system. 

"While the shots fired by the officers in response to the man's actions ultimately did not cause his death, those officers were justified in using any force necessary, including potentially lethal force, to protect their lives and the lives of other officers," said ASIRT in the release.


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