Nova Scotia

Police watchdog clears RCMP officer who shot and killed man who rammed him

The officer was thrown onto the car's hood on Aug.10, 2019 and fired multiple shots at the driver, who died of his injuries.

RCMP officer suffered serious brain injuries in Truro incident

A vehicle on its side near Willow Street in Truro on Aug.10, 2019. SIRT has said the officer who shot the man driving the car was justified in his actions and should not face charges. (Radio-Canada)

More than a year after an RCMP officer shot and killed a 22-year-old man in Truro, N.S. the province's police watchdog said the shooting was justified and no charges should be laid.

Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) was called to investigate the situation around 3:30 a.m. on Aug.10, 2019, less than an hour after the shooting. The officer was badly hurt in the incident.

According to their report released Tuesday, SIRT reviewed statements from other officers, witnesses, paramedics, firefighters and the subject officer in their investigation, which concluded May 23, 2020.

SIRT did not identify the dead man or the officer involved, but the driver was identified by friends at the time as Mitchell Speight.

A terrifying 20 seconds

Early in the morning on Aug.10, 2019, the report said, the RCMP were investigating a complaint of a vehicle stolen from the Amherst area. A bulletin describing the car was broadcast to all the neighbouring RCMP detachments.

An officer noticed a matching vehicle driving erratically in Truro. When he tried to stop it, the driver sped off and the officer lost track of the car. He alerted other officers in the area.

The officer who fired his gun spotted the stolen vehicle behind another car at an intersection. He pulled his unmarked police vehicle in front of the first car and turned on its flashing lights. 

The uniformed officer walked back to the stolen car and asked the driver, Speight, to get out. 

Police blocked off a section of Willow Street in Truro on Aug.10, 2019. (Olivier Lefebvre/Radio-Canada)

The report said Speight then drove forward, hitting the officer and knocking him onto the hood. Witnesses said they heard multiple gunshots and saw the officer hanging onto the wiper on the driver's side.

The stolen vehicle veered to the right, struck a fence and rolled onto the passenger side, throwing the officer onto the ground. 

A witness said the whole thing took about 20 seconds. The officer shot his gun 12 times, hitting Speight seven or eight times. Two of the shots were fatal and Speight died at the scene.

Officer left with broken skull

The officer suffered several skull fractures and two brain haemorrhages when he hit the pavement. He eventually provided a statement, but due to his severe head injury he had no memory of what he'd done, or why he'd fired his gun.

The report said the driver, Speight, was found to be under the influence of cocaine and cannabis. 

The report said that Speight was using the car as a weapon when he struck the officer. It concluded Speight's actions clearly show he intended to kill or seriously harm to the officer and so the police officer's use of force was "justified and not excessive."

SIRT said no charges are warranted against the officer. It cited a section of the Criminal Code of Canada that says police can use deadly force if the officer has reasonable grounds to think that force is necessary to protect the officer — or anyone else — from being killed.

RCMP policy says "the discharge of a firearm at a person in a motor vehicle is only permitted if the motor vehicle is being deliberately used as a weapon." 

"The [driver's] actions clearly demonstrate that the [driver] intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm to the [officer]," the SIRT report concluded.

Speight was one of the 34 people killed after police used force in Canada in 2019, according to CBC's Deadly Force database.