Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia police watchdog clears Mountie in shooting death of Eastern Passage man

Nova Scotia's police watchdog says the shooting death of a 60-year-old man in Eastern Passage over the summer was "justified," and found no charges against the Mountie involved were warranted.

60-year-old man was shot and killed in July 2020

A 60-year-old man was shot and killed by police in Eastern Passage, N.S., in July. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's police watchdog says an RCMP officer who shot a 60-year-old man to death in Eastern Passage, N.S., over the summer was "justified" in doing so, and has found no charges against the Mountie are warranted.

The man was killed after he pointed what RCMP members and witnesses at the scene thought was a loaded handgun at his mother and at officers, a weapon that turned out to be an airsoft gun, according to a summary of the investigation released Wednesday.

In the summary, Felix Cacchione, the director of the Serious Incident Response Team, said the RCMP contacted SIRT on July 9, 2020, minutes after an "officer involved fatal shooting."

The summary said the mother of the 60-year-old man called the police after he approached her in the home they shared with a handgun, which she believed was loaded, and pointed it in her face.

"The [man] knew his mother was on the phone with the police when he said in a voice loud enough to be heard on the call that he was 'done' and would shoot whoever came to the house," Cacchione wrote.

"The [man] left the house and sat on the side porch with the gun still in his hand. There were adults and children outside in the residential area."

The document said the man, referred to as the "affected party," had been drinking that day and was intoxicated. It also said he had previously made comments about wanting to die to civilian witnesses, and had said he had been approved for an "end of life needle" through the medical assistance in dying program, though that was false.

Officer tried rubber bullets first

The Halifax District RCMP officers were dispatched to the scene. One of the officers had an Arwen rifle, which fired rubber bullets, while the other two — including the "subject officer" who would end up fatally shooting the man — were armed with rifles. The officer who shot the man was the only one with emergency response training and was the one who communicated with the man.

Another five officers were in the man's driveway, but did not interact with him before the shots were fired.

Cacchione said the man was sitting on a side entrance deck, still holding the handgun, when the officers arrived. 

"The [subject officer] attempted to de-escalate the situation by telling the [man] to do certain things such as 'drop the gun', 'put the gun down and show me your hands' and 'put your hands in the air'," the summary of the investigation said. "The [man] responded by using some expletives but did not comply."

The report said the subject officer then told one of the other officers to use the rifle that fired rubber bullets. They fired one shot, but it did not hit the man and instead struck the deck and a post before deflecting into the backyard of the adjoining home.

Cacchione said the man then raised his gun and pointed it at the officers before one of them fired four rounds, which all struck the man. Officers then performed first aid on the man until paramedics arrived, but he died at the scene.

Man's gun was an air pistol

It was later discovered that the gun that the man pointed at police was an air gun pistol, which was not loaded and did not have an air cartridge in it at the time. The report said close-up photographs of the gun showed it had the characteristics and appearance of a real pistol.

In his report, Cacchione said police officers are entitled to apply force to protect themselves or others from the threat of harm from an offender.

"The [subject officers] and all other officers who responded to this call were aware that the [affected party] was armed with what was believed to be a loaded handgun," the summary of investigation said.

"The [affected party's] behaviour as evidenced by the threats he made to his mother and others, together with his failure to drop the gun he was holding when told to do so and more particularly his raising the gun in the direction of the [officers] provided the officers with a reasonable belief that his actions were presenting an immediate risk of death or grievous bodily harm to the officers and others."

Cacchione says no charges are warranted against the officer that shot and killed the man. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

The report went on to say that statements from the man's family and friends established he was the "direct, positive precipitator of the incident which caused his death," and that he "consciously engaged in life-threatening behaviour in order to force the police to respond with lethal force."

"A friend of the [affected party] described what happened as the police doing exactly what [he] wanted them to do," it said.

"An assessment of the use of force in the circumstances of this incident establishes that the [subject officer] was justified in using the force they did, that the force used was not excessive and was in accordance with their training and RCMP policies.

"Accordingly, no criminal offence was committed, and no charges are warranted against the officer," Cacchione concluded.