SIU clears officers in fatal shooting of Hamilton man who had called 911 for help

The provincial police watchdog has cleared Hamilton police of any wrongdoing in the shooting of a 19-year-old man who called 911 looking for help last year, and instead ended up dead.

Quinn MacDougall seemed "paranoid and panicky" and charged at officers with a knife, says the report

Quinn MacDougall was shot by Hamilton police officers in April of 2018. (Shannon Windsor/GoFundMe page)

Ontario's police watchdog has cleared Hamilton police of any wrongdoing in the shooting of a 19-year-old man who called 911 looking for help last year, and instead ended up dead.

In a lengthy report issued Thursday, the director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said the two police officers who shot Quinn MacDougall when he was distraught did so within the bounds of the law.

"I am therefore satisfied ... that the actions resorted to by these two officers, despite the tragic loss of life, fell within the limits prescribed by the criminal law and there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges in this case," said Tony Loparco, in the report.

According to the SIU, MacDougall charged at an officer with a knife on April 3 of last year outside a townhouse complex on the Mountain.

The officers repeatedly tried to put him down with their Tasers, but to no avail, the report says.

"It is clear from the observations of all witnesses, both civilian and police, that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the complainant was in possession of a weapon dangerous to the public peace … [and] he brandished that weapon and charged at [an officer] with what appeared to be an obvious intention to do him harm," the report reads.

The SIU says this knife was recovered at the scene. (Special Investigations Unit)

MacDougall's family previously said he did not have a history of mental health issues, and was just looking for help. Members of his family protested at a police board meeting at city hall last year, saying that police should have done more to de-escalate the situation.

Loparco noted in the SIU report that people who knew MacDougall said he wasn't suffering from any major mental illness. But on the morning he died, he seemed "paranoid and panicky," and seemed to believe that he and his family had to move out of their home or they would be killed, Loparco said.

CBC News is seeking comment from MacDougall's family.

An autopsy found he had four gunshot wounds — one in his right elbow, one in his left arm, one to the right side of his chest and one to his lower back. A toxicology report found no drugs in his system except for marijuana.

Trying to find 'the man with the gun'

The SIU report outlines in great detail the phone calls between MacDougall and 911 operators on the morning of April 3.

He first called 911 at 11:55 a.m. to report "a threat" he received on Snapchat. The operator said she would send officers over to speak with him.

MacDougall was 19-years-old when he died. (Dave Ritchie/CBC)

What followed was a series of calls back and forth between MacDougall and the operator, where he painted a confusing picture of a man with a gun who was out to get him. Through tears, he told the operator the man was at a nearby Ford dealership.

According to the SIU, the first Hamilton police car was sent to the area of the Ford Dealership on Upper James Street at 3:37 p.m., with several other units dispatched shortly after. The 911 operator eventually sent police to MacDougall's home.

Officers, both uniformed and in plainclothes, arrived at the scene. According to the report, MacDougall at one point identified a plainclothes officer as "the guy with the gun." 

Another officer told MacDougall the officer wasn't the man with the gun. MacDougall, according to the SIU, initially didn't respond, but then whispered that "the Bloods" street gang was after him.

Krista Keithley held this sign up during a Hamilton Police Services Board meeting to protest MacDougall's death. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Police asked MacDougall for more information about the alleged gunman, and that's when an officer saw him walk into the middle of the street, where he reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife.

"The complainant then began to pace and stare at the police officers, suddenly shouting out, 'Shoot me! Shoot me!' as he held the knife above his head," the report reads.

Multiple witnesses quoted in the SIU report then saw MacDougall run at an SUV while brandishing a knife. The plainclothes officer he had called "the guy with the gun" was sitting inside. An officer tried to hit him with a Taser, but wasn't successful.

MacDougall then ran off, the SIU says, while four officers chased after him. At one point, the report says, MacDougall shouted, "You want to kill me? You want me dead?"

'I want to die'

One witness told the SIU that MacDougall then stopped in the middle of the road, and so did the police officers, who surrounded him in a semi-circle. The witness reported seeing him lunge at one officer "as if to stab him in the chest," the report says.

One officer reported seeing MacDougall get within three feet of another cop and "almost place his left hand on" him, prompting the first officer to start firing his gun, the report says. A second officer also fired.

Neighbours are seen dropping off flowers to the home where MacDougall lived. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

"[The officer] could not say how often he fired, but indicated that he did so until the threat was over," the report reads. "The complainant then dropped to the ground and tried to get back up, whereupon [the officer] discharged his last shot."

Even hours before his death, it was clear MacDougall was in some form of distress.

At 7:47 a.m. that morning, he texted his girlfriend and said "f--k, I want to die."

When asked why, he responded he didn't know, but just said his life was bad.



Adam Carter


Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.