Police watchdog clears Winnipeg officers present when man fatally stabbed himself
Police say they were trying to defuse a domestic dispute when the man injured himself last February
Manitoba's police watchdog has cleared Winnipeg police officers of any wrongdoing in a confrontation where a man died of self-inflicted wounds in their presence one year ago.
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba said Wednesday it has concluded that police did not contribute to or cause the death of a man in the Feb. 10, 2020, incident.
Officers responded that day to a domestic dispute call on Listowel Bay in Winnipeg's Silver Heights area, where a man was reportedly distraught and armed with a knife, according to the investigation unit's final report into the incident.
The man appeared to be suicidal, according to police, and when officers failed to defuse the situation through conversation, two of them used stun guns to try to disarm him. But the man managed to stab himself in the chest, the IIU said.
He was rushed to hospital but died of his injuries.
The police watchdog was notified and launched an investigation. The organization is required to review any events involving Manitoba police officers where someone is seriously injured or dies.
The Manitoba Police Commission also appointed a civilian monitor to also be involved.
IIU investigators reviewed a Winnipeg police summary of events, officers' notes, forensic unit reports and photos, 911 and police call history, and police radio transmission recordings. They also looked into the use of conducted energy weapons — more commonly known as stun guns — and considered the findings of an autopsy report completed last month.
Report of assault
Investigators interviewed the man's live-in partner, who was there that day.
The man was at the home on the morning of Feb. 10, when she was gathering some belongings and in the process of moving out.
She said he was drinking from a bottle of vodka when she arrived and was "heavily" intoxicated, and may have also taken sleeping pills. He threatened to kill himself, something she told the investigation unit he had previously attempted. Concerned for his safety, she later called police.
Officers told the IIU the woman had reported being assaulted by the man, and they intended to make an arrest. She hadn't reported the possibility that he could be in possession of a weapon when she called 911, police said.
The woman met police at a different location early that evening and then led them to the home. She entered first but couldn't see whether he had a weapon.
No report of weapon
She let the officers in through a side door and directed them to the man in the living room before she went outside, the IIU report says. Police said the man was holding a knife to his chest when they entered the room.
They also said he appeared intoxicated and refused to drop the weapon. Police said the man started pushing the knife into his chest, prompting them to fire their stun guns in an attempt to incapacitate him, the IIU report states.
But he managed to "plunge the knife into his own chest," the IIU report said. Officers called for an ambulance, but the man died of the self-inflicted wounds.
Zane Tessler, the civilian director of the IIU, found no evidence suggesting the use of stun guns, or any other actions by the officers, caused or contributed to the man's death.
The investigation is now closed.
The full report is available on the IIU website.
If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there. Contact the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line toll-free at 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-HELP170) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. You can also text CONNECT to 686868 and get immediate support from a crisis responder through the Crisis Text Line, powered by Kids Help Phone.
Or contact Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (text, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. CT only) | crisisservicescanada.ca