Calgary police justified in killing woman who was stabbing her son, says Alberta's police watchdog

A tragic fight between a mother and her 17-year-old son that ended with the mother being shot dead by Calgary police was a justified use of force, according to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT). 

Officers fired as woman raised a knife to deliver another blow to the 17-year-old

This is the home on Penbrooke Close in the city's southeast where officers fatally shot a woman as she tried to stab her son in May 2018. (Colin Hall/CBC)

A fight between a mother and her 17-year-old son that ended with the mother being shot dead by Calgary police was a justified use of force, according to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team. 

ASIRT, which investigates fatal interactions with police, outlined the sequence of events in a news release Thursday.

It said officers responded to reports of a break-in at a home in the city's southeast on May 17, 2018. 

Police found the door to the basement suite barricaded. They surrounded the home while trying to make contact with whomever was inside. There was no response, ASIRT said. 

Around noon, police said they could hear a verbal dispute taking place inside and heard a woman screaming. They forced their way into the suite and found it in disarray. 

They also found a door that would not open and heard two voices inside, according to ASIRT. 

It was at this time that four tactical officers arrived on scene and one officer said he could hear a female voice coming from inside the room asking for help. 

The officers were granted permission to enter the room and used a ram that eventually broke open the top half of the door. The bottom was blocked by a dryer. 

Stabbing and fatal shooting

Two tactical officers were at the door and one of them reported seeing a male inside — later confirmed as the 17-year-old son — holding a knife. 

Officers said they ordered the youth to drop the knife, but those commands were ignored. 

One of the officers used a non-lethal projectile weapon known as an Arwen and fired all five rounds at the youth, who fell to the ground and dropped the knife. 

"Within seconds, the woman took the knife and, despite commands to drop the weapon, raised the knife and proceeded to stab her son in the chest," said ASIRT in its release. 

"When she raised the knife in what appeared to be a move to stab him again, both [Subject Officer 1] and [Subject Officer 2] fired their service pistols, striking the woman repeatedly and sending her to the ground. The young man remained on the ground, critically wounded."

Mother dead at scene

The teen was taken outside for medical care. One paramedic looked after him, while another found the woman unresponsive in the basement. 

"The paramedic who responded to the backyard noted that the teen was agitated and confused, thrashing on the ground. When examined, he had what appeared to be two stab wounds to the left chest above the nipple," reads the release.

The paramedic determined there was an "immediate risk of death."

"The paramedic who responded to the basement found the woman in the utility room with two tactical officers present, one who was rendering medical aid," according to ASIRT. 

"The woman was unresponsive. In addition to the gunshot wounds, the woman appeared to have several lacerations or possible stab wounds. Following assessment, the paramedic confirmed her to be deceased at 12:20 p.m."

An autopsy later revealed the woman had one stab wound to her chest in addition to an unknown number of gunshot wounds. 

Tragic life

ASIRT says the woman had a long history of not only criminal charges and violence, but heartache and abuse. 

"She had a tragic and troubling history. She had been in and out of custody since she was 13 years old. She had been the victim of physical, sexual and emotional abuse over the course of her life," it said in the release. 

"Her history included time in a residential school, poverty, family violence, family and personal drug abuse, involvement in gangs and, as noted above, an extensive criminal record."

ASIRT also said she was known to be dangerous, with a quick temper, but that she also yearned for a connection to her son.

That son, who had "a significant youth criminal record," had travelled from Saskatchewan to visit with his mother. 

Son survived

He survived his injuries that night and told investigators the next day that he and his mother were looking for an apartment to live and that he could not remember much. He admitted both he and his mother were intoxicated. 

"He told investigators that he wished he could have died the night before, too," according to ASIRT. 

He said he could not believe his mother would stab him and said they barricaded themselves inside because his mom did not want to go back to prison. She was on parole at the time and was supposed to be staying at a halfway house. 

ASIRT concluded the two officers were justified in the shooting death of the woman in order to save the life of her son. 

"While the loss of life is never the ideal outcome, the officers had a fundamental duty to stop the woman to preserve the life of the young man," it said in the release. 

"She had already stabbed him, inflicting critical injuries, and as she raised the knife to stab him again, the officers were placed in the worst possible situation where they had to use lethal force to prevent her from killing what turned out to be her own son."


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