Hamilton

'Shots fired': Inquest into death of Tony Divers watches video of fatal police shooting

A surveillance video from the night of Sept. 30 2016 shows the 36-year-old Hamilton man as he is confronted by a police officer with his gun drawn and moment of the fatal shooting.

Inquest 'awful' for Divers family but they're determined to see it through, says lawyer

This screenshot from a surveillance video shown during the inquest into the death of Tony Divers shows the tense moments before the trigger was pulled on Sept. 30, 2016. (Anthony Divers Inquest)

The courtroom was silent as the jury watched Tony Divers standing in the middle of James Street South with a Hamilton police officer's gun point toward him.

The surveillance video from the night of Sept. 30, 2016 shows the 36-year-old Hamilton man facing the officer with one hand under his jacket. He appears to take two shuffling steps forward when the gun's muzzle flashes twice and he crumples, dropping to the ground and rolling over and over.

Yvonne Alexander, Divers's sister quietly wiped away tears as she watched her brother fall, not once but twice as the video was replayed for the jury.

"It's awful, it's agonizing for the family to go through that and see it," Roy Wellington, the lawyer representing the Divers family in the inquest into his death, said outside court. "But they are resolute … to see this process through."

The second day of the inquest aimed at answering questions about Divers's death and making recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future covered witness testimony, two security videos and a recording of police communications from the night of the fatal shooting.

In the first video that was shown Divers can be seen walking south along James, heading toward Mexican restaurant Mezcal when a police car pulls in front of him and a bus that's driving up to a stop just past Bold Street.

Divers can be seen turning around and jogging past the bus, back toward Hunter Street with one hand near his waist and his other arm swinging free — a police officer running not far behind.

The second video showed the tense moments leading up to the shooting, where Divers walks into the middle of the street, causing a bus trying to turn into the terminal to stop. Then he turns to face the officer standing with his gun drawn a short distance away.

One of Divers's hands is near the waistband of his pants, tucked under his jacket and he seems to shrug, lift his jacket and takes two short steps toward the officer who pulls the trigger twice.

Divers immediately drops to the ground, rolling five times before coming to rest on his side in the fetal position.

The officer takes a few measured steps toward him, keeping his gun trained on Divers. The scene is quickly flooded by police who tend to the man lying on the ground until EMS arrive.

'Police, don't move'

Radio communications between police officers and dispatchers starting earlier that night helped fill in more detail about the lead up to the shooting.

The dispatcher relays details of an incident where Divers hit his wife Madeleine Peternel in the face outside her work, relaying that he was possibly high.

An officer reports she believes they dealt with Divers earlier that day, describing him as "anti-police."

After an officer meets up with Peternel to take her statement. The officer can be heard saying there are grounds for assault and that the complainant said Divers "showed up to her house with a gun" earlier that day.

The dispatcher relays the message that a gun was seen that morning.

"Be advised, suspect may be armed," he says.

Yvonne Alexander, Tony Divers's sister, held this photo of him during when she took the witness stand first day of the inquest into his death. (Anthony Divers Inquest)

About four minutes later another officer says he's spotted Divers on James Street.

"I've got him running," the officer says, his breath short.

The radio also picks up him yelling "police, don't move," once before it cuts out.

Just over 30 seconds later, the officer says "shots fired."

Ontario's Special Investigation's Unit cleared the officer who shot Divers of any criminal wrongdoing in 2017.

Following the videos, the inquest at Hamilton's John Sopinka Courthouse heard from a six witnesses — a cab driver, restaurant security worker, party-goers and a pair of HSR drivers — who saw all or part of the incident from different vantage points that night.

They each shared their recollections, offering subtle differences in what they remember happening.

Several of the witnesses reported hearing the police officer order Divers to stop or get down. All of them said the shooting happened quickly.

Dennis Okeke, who was working security at Radius restaurant that night, read the statement he provided investigators in the days after the shooting, saying he thought Divers might attack the officer and that there was going to be some sort of gunfight.

Khalid Yousaf, a Blue Line Taxi driver who told the inquest he thought Divers might need a ride, recalled seeing the police officer pull his gun shortly after getting out of his cruiser.

Others, including HSR driver Bradley Griffiths, said they only noticed the officer's gun was drawn once he and Divers stopped.

Bus driver says shooting happened just feet away

Griffiths said his bus was out of service and he was about to turn into the Hamilton GO Station when he saw two people running across the road.

At first he thought they were a pair of drunks who had partied too hard, but said he quickly realized it was a police officer chasing someone.

Police quickly flooded the scene after Divers was shot on James Street South, just outside the Hamilton GO Centre. (Anthony Divers Inquest)

When they stopped Griffiths said Divers was standing between eight and 12 feet from the bumper of his bus. The officer was about 20 feet away.

The driver said he didn't hear Divers say anything, but he "flipped up his shirt" at some point.

Griffiths said he also remembers Divers taking a "deliberate" step and turning slightly toward his bus when the officer, who had been yelling at him to stop, fired.

"I don't even think he got a second step in," Griffiths told the inquest. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

The inquest continues Wednesday.

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