Witness to police shooting says officers tried Tasers before firing on teen

Ontario's police watchdog continues to investigate the day after officers in Hamilton shot and killed a 19-year-old man on Tuesday afternoon. A witnesses of the interaction recalls how events unfolded.

A day after a 19-year-old was shot and killed by Hamilton police a witness describes how events unfolded

Neighbours are seen dropping off flowers to the home where they say the 19-year-old who was shot on Tuesday by Hamilton police lived. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

A man who says he witnessed the police shooting of a Hamilton teen said officers first used Tasers and called for the victim to disarm before the fatal shots were fired.

Sam Wilcox, 20, said the scene involved "a lot of shouting" and "a lot of chaos" and the shots were fired as the teen lunged at officers.

Ontario's police watchdog continues to investigate the day after officers were called to a townhouse complex on the west side of Hamilton Mountain at about 3:30 p.m. by a report of a threat in progress involving a weapon. 

Wilcox, and his roommate were making their daily trip to a nearby Tim Hortons when they witnessed the interaction take place on Caledon Avenue.

"We definitely heard at least three or four Tasers before we heard the bang-bangs," said Wilcox.

We definitely heard 'put it down.' We definitely heard 'get on the ground.- Sam Wilcox 

He says he saw the 19-year-old leave a townhouse, before running down the street while police pursued him for about 50 metres from the house.

Wilcox says the teen turned around and "engaged" with police. He says he heard a lot of communication from police officers.

"They tried to get him down with the Tasers, then he lunged at one of the police officers," said Wilcox. "That's when they took the shots."

"There was just a lot of shouting, a lot of chaos."

Police vehicles blanket the scene behind yellow police tape as neighbours look on after weapon call, prompted the SIU to get involved. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

According to the province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), two officers fired their weapons, striking the 19-year-old man. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. 

Wilcox says he was standing in an open field across from the row of houses, about 30 meters away from where the confrontation was taking place. He says he couldn't see if the teen was holding a weapon.

Other neighbours have told CBC the teen had a knife.

"We definitely heard 'put it down.' We definitely heard 'get on the ground.' A lot of 'put it down,' so it definitely sounded like there was something in there," said Wilcox.

Officers 'consoling' 

Cara Daisley lives on the street. She was home with her girls when she heard loud "banging" sounds that she initially thought were coming from upstairs, but then also heard her dog outside, which is when she went out and saw the teen's body on the ground.

Daisley says officers were "kind of running around. "At one point they were hugging. A bunch of them were kind of like huddled around."

The officers are shaken by the incident but doing well.-  Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association

SIU spokeperson Monica Hudon told reporters at the scene on Tuesday evening that the agency, which was called in after the shooting, has assigned five investigators and three forensics specialists to the case. She said there were four witness officers.

On Wednesday Hudon told CBC News in an email, "while the SIU investigation is ongoing, the unit does not comment on, confirm, or share any specific evidence the unit may have gathered. This would include weapons involved, interviews conducted and video evidence."

Hudon says the autopsy was done Wednesday.

She said Tuesday the SIU will attempt to interview the officers who fired their weapons, but that they had the right to refuse.

The SIU is an arm's length agency that investigates police incidents involving death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

President of the Hamilton Police Association, Clint Twolan, told CBC News in an email that he couldn't speak about the event, but that he could say that, "the officers are shaken by the incident but doing well."

"We are hopeful that the SIU conducts their investigation in a timely manner and ensures that the family, the officers and the public are kept as updated as the legislation permits," said Twolan.

'He was a great kid'

On Wednesday, neighbours described the teen, whose name has not been released, as being "a great kid."

We're going to miss him a lot.- Heather Legere

Donna Miller lives across the street from where the teen lived. She says she's known the family for the past 15 years.

"He was a really nice boy," said Miller, who also described him as a really sweet kid.

Miller says whenever she interacted with him on the street he'd have a big smile and say, "hi, how are you? Have a good day."

A man is in hospital after a shooting on Caledon Avenue Tuesday afternoon. (Dave Ritchie/CBC)

A few houses down, neighbour and family friend, Heather Legere says she mostly saw him in passing over the past three and a half years, but says, "he was a great kid, always super nice, always cheerful attitude and we're going to miss him a lot."

Neighbours could be seen visiting the home where the teen lived to drop off flowers.



Laura Clementson is a producer for CBC's The National. She can be reached at laura.clementson@cbc.ca. Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraClementson.