Calgary·Q & A

'He didn't give them a choice': Caregiver reacts to report clearing police in disabled man's killing

Caregiver Isabelle Templeton speculates that death of David McQueen's care dog made him snap, leading to an armed standoff with police in 2016. Police shot the wheelchair-bound man as he emerged from his house.

Isabelle Templeton speculates that death of David McQueen's dog made him snap

Isabelle Templeton was David McQueen's longtime caregiver. She says he was frustrated with the government and the health-care system. (CBC)

David McQueen was a man living on the emotional edge.

When his dog Bear had to be put down, he may have snapped, according to McQueen's longtime caregiver, Isabelle Templeton.

She spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday, following the release of a report by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) that cleared the police in the 2016 shooting death of the armed man.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Police officers' actions were found to be reasonable and justified. What do you make of it?

A. Yes, I think the way the circumstances were, with David being unable to really control where he was shooting, and exactly what was going on, I don't know... David was very determined, and if he had an idea, that's what he would go after. It was because he did lose his dog — that [dog] was his whole world. And I think the week before he did this, he was very distressed. He was financially strapped. He had no money left, and he was just, I think, very desperate. He always said he would never commit suicide. But I think he finally — it could have [ultimately] come to that. When they put the tear gas in, he had no choice but to leave [the house]. That's terrible.

Q. What's your understanding of how David got into this confrontation with police?

A. It went on for many years. It actually started around 2012 and it just snowballed. He does have some videos of things that have happened around his home that would give you the idea that it seemed to be that they were watching him. And the more it happened, the more I think he got paranoid. He always said he wasn't paranoid, but I think at the very end, after Bear died, I think he didn't even trust me anymore, really, and I think it just ... it just happened. 

David McQueen posted on Facebook about his beloved dog's death in January 2016, along with numerous, lengthy complaints about the health-care system, the federal and provincial governments, police, and his neighbours. (Facebook)

Q. Bear was his dog?

A. His dog, yeah. He had Bear for five or six years.

Q. Bear was a very significant part of his life, wasn't he?

A. It was. He was with him 24 hours a day for five years, or four years. And that dog was absolutely miraculous as far as [anticipating David's needs]. If he dropped his phone on the floor, the dog would pick it up. He didn't get it all wet, he knew that it had to be good. He's picked up coins off the floor. He helped David stop his leg spasms. I've seen him do it. It was just amazing.

And he did that right from the beginning, when he got Bear. He was part of David. He was just David, part of him, and when he went, I think David went, too. And he [David] didn't expect it [Bear's death] either. He thought he would be coming home, and when we took the dog into the vet, we kind of knew he had cancer. He had a lot of lumps in his stomach and everything ... but I don't think David really understood that. He didn't even really get to say goodbye. I think it all kind of stemmed from the dog.

Justin McQueen, now in his mid-20s, is being snuggled by his father in this photo from his childhood. He remembers his father as a loving, dedicated dad, but his physical and mental health struggles affected him until his death. (Submitted by Justin McQueen)

Q.The ASIRT report states that the police did what was needed. You've had a year and a half since David's death. What lingering thoughts do you have?

A. That's kind of hard. I do think about David a lot. I know he wouldn't give up. He was determined and would not give up for anything. They said somewhere he had a gun and a rifle. He could never have held a rifle. He could hardly hold the gun, because ... his hands were very constricted. So I think any shots he fired were not necessarily shot at anybody. It was just, he couldn't control it, but he was determined to keep them [the police] away. From what I've heard — and I did talk to the police and all that — he kind of didn't give them a choice. I know it's a very difficult thing for them and I know we were very upset that they did it. When he talked to me, the last thing he said was goodbye, Isabelle, and then hung up the phone. Shortly after that, they had shot him. But I know they did have quite a confrontation with him.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener