Hamilton

Officer tells Divers inquest wife reported seeing him with a gun on day of police shooting

A Hamilton police officer says Tony Divers's wife, Madeleine Peternel, reported seeing him with a gun on the day he was fatally shot — directly contradicting what she would later tell the Special Investigation's Unit.

Tony Divers was unarmed when he was fatally shot on Sept. 30, 2016

The inquest was shown surveillance video of the fatal shooting on Sept. 30, 2016. (Anthony Divers Inquest)

A Hamilton police officer says Tony Divers's wife, Madeleine Peternel, reported seeing him with a gun on the day he was killed — directly contradicting what she would later tell the Special Investigation's Unit (SIU).

Divers was unarmed when he was shot by a police officer on James Street South just before midnight on Sept. 30, 2016.

But during the third day of the inquest into the shooting, Const. Teddie Eden recalled meeting with Peternel that night and being told he may have a weapon.

Eden was called to Club Seventy Seven around 11:39 p.m. following reports of a domestic assault. She remembered seeing Peternel whose left check appeared "sunken," adding Peternel told her she had been hit in the face following an argument with her husband, Tony Divers.

The officer said she radioed there was grounds to arrest Divers for assault and started to take down a statement from Peternel who told her earlier that day she and her husband had argued in her car after she told him to go to the hospital.

Eden said Peternel told her he became upset and started hitting himself in the face and, when he got out of the car, he flashed a black Glock handgun that was tucked into the waistband of his pants.

"She advised me she knew it was a real gun based on her police foundations background," Eden told the inquest.

The officer relayed that Divers was possibly armed over the radio. Following that call, another officer confronted Divers in the middle of the road, firing twice and hitting him once. He later died in hospital.

Eden said she continued to take Peternel's statement until  she heard overheard words "shots fired" broadcast.

Then, Eden says, Peternel started asking if Divers was OK and stating she hadn't wanted him to be shot.

The officer's testimony differed significantly from the statement Peternel gave to the SIU on Oct. 2.

A recording of that statement was played for the inquest Monday after Peternel refused to participate.

Wife believed Divers wanted to die

In it she can be heard saying Divers's face was swollen and he wasn't able to speak when he showed up outside the bar where she worked, contrary to the verbal argument she reportedly told Eden they'd had. 

Peternel also insisted the gun she had seen earlier that day was a plastic "kid's toy" not a real thing, and that she repeatedly told Eden "whatever you do ... he is not armed," contradicting what the officer said happened.

"If I have it right, there were sort of two Madeleine [Peternels] there that night," said Gary Clewly, the lawyer representing the officer who killed Divers. "The victim of the assault and the one that you talked with for hours who poured out a long history of relationship with Mr. Divers."

Among the things Eden said Peternel told her were that Divers had "completely lost his mind, believing he was part of an alien race" and that he often talked about wanting to kill himself.

"Madeleine believed that Anthony wanted police to kill him," Eden added.

Yvonne Alexander, Tony Divers's sister, told the inquest he gave the "warmest hugs." (Facebook)

The mood changed after Peternel was told Divers was dead, according to Eden, who said Peternel then told the officer she was a liar and didn't want to speak with her again.

The inquest also heard from Const. Alexis Petrovic who spent about 10 minutes talking with Divers a few hours before he was killed.

She met up with him around 8:30 p.m. outside a convenience store on Main Street after someone reported a suspicious male acting aggressively.

Petrovic said Divers readily handed over his identification and was forthcoming with details of his criminal history and the medication he was on.

Divers was rushed to hospital after he was shot. He was pronounced dead shortly after midnight on Oct. 1. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

She said he even made a joke about living in a crowded house with his sister and standing on that corner because the last time he was there he'd managed to pick up a girl.

The officer said she saw no sign he had difficulty speaking or was armed and that she saw no reason to arrest him or take him to hospital.

Petrovic's account again differed from Peternel's SIU statement, where she told investigators police had been in contact with Divers in the morning, not the evening, but that "they didn't even do anything, they just dropped him off on probation."

Peternel's unwillingness to be present has been remarked upon several times in the inquest. Roy Wellington,  the lawyer representing Divers's family previously said it's unfortunate because that means she can't face questions about inconsistencies in some of her statements. Presiding Coroner John Carlisle also noted that her absence limited the inquest's ability to question her.

Office who fired shot was in shock

Michael Girard, an instructor at the Ontario Police College was present to speak about use of force training for police and their ability to recognize mental health issues.

He said officers are taught to recognize the signs that someone may be hiding a weapon, including wearing baggy clothing, running or walking in an unusual way or repeatedly touching the weapon to check it's still there.

In surveillance videos from the moments before the shooting, Divers can be seen with a hand under his jacket, near the waistband of his loose-fitting track pants, despite the fact he was not armed.

"There might be reasonable mistakes of fact," said Girard, speaking generally. "That's the unfortunate element in circumstances such as these where you put real people in dynamic, rapidly evolving circumstances. We hope they make always the right decision, unfortunately they may ... act on what is a reasonable misperception."

Sgt. Robert Di Ianni, who was working as a supervisor on the night of the shooting, also spoke before the inquest, saying he and remembered arriving on the scene to find Divers with blood beneath him and no sign of a weapon.

He recalled from his statement to the SIU that the officer who pulled the trigger seemed as though he was in shock "stood in stunned silence" and that his eyes were "dead-looking."

The inquest continues Thursday when the jury is expected to hear from the officer who killed Divers.

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