Hamilton

Hamilton police officers leave hospital after suffering knife wounds to neck and face

The three Hamilton police officers who suffered "stab and slash" wounds after responding to a "person in crisis" call have left the hospital and are continuing to recover from home.

Police say they tried verbal de-escalation techniques, minimal force and used a Taser

Police are shown at the scene of an altercation in downtown Hamilton, Ont., that wounded four people, including three police officers. The three officers have returned home to continue recovering from their injuries. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The three Hamilton police officers who suffered "stab and slash" wounds after responding to a "person in crisis" on Tuesday have left the hospital and are continuing to recover from home.

The Hamilton Police Service (HPS) confirmed the news on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the incident.

The incident took place on Tuesday, when locals near James Street North and Robert Street called 9-1-1 about a man who was "acting erratically."

Witnesses who spoke to CBC News said the man was shouting and talking to himself while walking up and down the street at roughly 3 p.m.

Acting HPS Superintendent Treena MacSween added in a phone interview on Wednesday, the man was also reportedly damaging a car and wielding "a metal rod of some sort."

Detectives were on scene Tuesday afternoon. Various items could be seen strewn on the street, including a backpack. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

She said two officers initially arrived before a third joined them. MacSween said responding officers tried to talk to the man to de-escalate the situation, but "in a matter of seconds" police ended up trying to "physically gain control" of him. That's when MacSween says the man stabbed the officers with a knife. They had wounds on their face and neck. Officers used a Taser, but it wasn't effective. More units arrived soon after and the man was detained.

Paramedics say they assessed the officers and the man at about 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old man from Oakville who is facing numerous charges including aggravated assault of a police officer had "minor injuries" and was taken to hospital for assessment according to police. MacSween said he is still in hospital receiving treatment and added he wasn't previously known to local police.

Officers are still investigating and are asking anyone with more information or footage to come forward.

Questions raised about police approach

The DefundHPS coalition raised questions about whether there was a mental health professional on site and what kind of de-escalation techniques were used.

Kojo Damptey, Hamilton Centre For Civic Inclusion's interim executive director, is also seeking answers.

"I know most people have been focused on the health and safety of the police officers, but I would like to remind people that prior instances where someone has been in distress and police have been called, individuals have lost their lives," he said.

MacSween said from January to October, there has been a 14.5 per cent rise in calls about people in crisis — but on Tuesday, there was no mental health worker present at the scene.

There was a heavy police presence in downtown Hamilton, with caution tape and cruisers blocking off a section of James Street North near Mulberry Street. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

"When we get 911 calls, it's our duty to respond immediately, so in a situation like this as well, as we're getting information this male is armed with some type of weapon, so in those situations, we will always respond accordingly with our officers who have use of force options available to handle the situation," she said.

She added even if there was a mental health worker available, they would not have been the first line of contact with the man in crisis because of a potential risk to their safety.

MacSween also said officers used the least amount of force as possible in the given situation and said the Special Investigations Unit didn't need to be notified.

Damptey and DefundHPS also questioned the number of police units at the scene, but MacSween said they weren't all there to deal with the man in distress.

"This is 3 p.m. on a busy afternoon on James Street in the downtown core, so those officers are not only managing the scene, they're also helping with traffic control. It's going to take a few officers to manage the scene, we have officers there gathering evidence, conducting the investigation ... everyone's got a role to play."

MacSween emphasized no one was seriously injured besides police and said the service has received an outpouring of support from the community.

But Damptey says he still thinks situations in the future need to be handled better.

"I don't think the outcome is something anybody should be proud of, when one person is in distress and people with guns and Tasers show up … there has to be a better way to respond to people that are in distress."

With files from CBC News

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