Hamilton

SIU clears Hamilton police officer in fatal 2018 shooting of woman

Ontario's police watchdog has cleared a Hamilton officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding woman in October 2018, saying he feared for his life and that of his partner when he pulled the trigger.

Warning: This story contains graphic details

A Hamilton police officer stands at the top of a flight of stairs leading to an apartment on King Street East where a police officer shot and killed a woman on October 20, 2018. The SIU has cleared the officer involved. (David Ritchie/CBC)

Warning: This story contains graphic details

Ontario's police watchdog has cleared a Hamilton officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding woman in October 2018, saying he feared for his life and that of his partner when he pulled the trigger.

In his report, Interim SIU director Joseph Martino noted the confrontation happened in close quarters and pointed to the quick-moving and "rapidly deteriorating" nature of the incident. He said less than 30 seconds passed between when the officers entered the apartment and the shots were fired.

Emergency crews were called to an apartment on King Street around 1 a.m. on October 20 after reports a woman was using a knife to try to cut her throat, according to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

When police arrived they found two people, one of whom showed showed them a wound and said the woman had cut him.

The SIU says when police entered a second-floor apartment they found a woman standing on a bed with a knife in her hand. One of the officers ordered the woman to drop the weapon, but the woman refused, according to the SIU, instead bringing the knife up to her neck.

Believing the woman was trying to take her own life, one of the officers fired a Taser, but quickly realized it hadn't worked, states the SIU's report. The officer pulled the trigger again, but investigators say that also failed to have any effect.

The woman then raised the knife over her head, started to scream and "lunged aggressively" at the officers, says the SIU.

The second police officer had his handgun pointed at the woman and ordered her several times to drop the knife, says the report. She continued to moved toward the police and one of the officers fired his gun four times, hitting her twice.

An autopsy found one of the shots entered the woman's right shoulder before travelling through her chest and ending up in her torso. The other hit her in the left, upper back. The SIU says several cuts were also noted on the woman's neck.

In his report, Martino said he was satisfied the officer's actions did not "run afoul" of the limits of criminal law.

Hamilton Paramedic Service vehicles parked near the scene of a fatal police shooting in October 2018. (David Ritchie/CBC)

"The fact is the officers were embroiled in a rapidly developing situation without the luxury of time to consider their options," he wrote, adding despite the "tragic loss of life" he concluded the officer fired out of a need to protect himself and his partner from a lethal threat.

"The [woman] was not of sound mind at the time of the events in question," stated Martino. "She was under the influence of non-prescription drugs and upset with a domestic situation. Her behaviour deteriorated to the point where she attacked [a witness] with a hammer and armed herself with a knife which she used to harm herself and threaten others."