No charges against Summerside police officers in fatal shooting

A report released Tuesday by the Serious Incident Response Team determined there would be no charges against Summerside police officers after the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Jeremy Stephens in May 2018.

Police fatally shot 32-year-old Jeremy Stephens after altercation

Jeremy Stephens was fatally shot by Summerside police after an altercation in May 2018. (Submitted by the Stephens family)

A report released Tuesday by the director of Serious Incident Response Team, Felix Cacchione, determined there would be no charges against Summerside police officers after the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Jeremy Stephens in May 2018.

SiRT is a civilian oversight agency called in to investigate serious incidents involving police.

The report says officers were pursuing suspects in a motel robbery a few hours earlier and ended up at a home in Summerside. 

There they arrested one suspect outside, and then entered the home with their firearms drawn.

This file photo taken May 27, 2018, shows the home where the shooting occurred. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

They located two men asleep in the house, then began searching the rest of the house for Stephens. 

"Officers made their way to the darkened, unfinished and heavily cluttered basement," the report said.

According to the report, visibility in the basement was "extremely poor" because of a planned city-wide power outage at the time of the incident. In addition, the report said windows in the basement were small and had coverings preventing light from getting in, so the officers were using small flashlights.

Officers yelled for Stephens to come out but there was no response. An officer located Stephens, told him he was under arrest and ordered him to show his hands.

The report said Stephens did not comply, told officers to "kill him," and broke the arm off a nearby chair, before moving toward a second officer with the piece of chair in his hands.

The second officer ordered Stephens to drop the weapon, but he refused, the report said, and he "repeated the words 'kill me'" as he moved closer.

This file photo shows one of the basement windows of the home where the shooting occurred. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The officer fired one shot as he was backing up, hitting Stephens.

The report says police told Stephens to drop his weapon and go to the ground, but he ignored the commands.

Stephens picked up a golf club and swung it at an officer's head "missing it by less than a foot" the report said, and the officer fired two more rounds.

Stephens moved away from the second officer toward the first, and that officer discharged six rounds.

According to the report Stephens said "I'm hit, I'm done," and fell.

Gilda Stephens, right, stands with her lawyer Julie Kirkpatrick, left in a file photo. 'I have more questions than ever before, and now, more than ever,' says a statement from Gilda Stephens in response to the release of the SIRT investigation into her son's death. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Police handcuffed him and "officers immediately began providing first-aid treatment." The report said one of the officers used his duty belt as a tourniquet for Stephens' leg injury.

The report also said officers began carrying Stephens out of the basement but he "demanded that he be put down and allowed to walk out on his own," and he walked to the police vehicle without assistance.

An ambulance was called but was more than 20 minutes away and due to the seriousness of Stephens' injuries, a decision was made to transport him to the Prince County Hospital in a police vehicle.

Upon arrival at the hospital, Stephens got out of the police vehicle "on his own and lay down on the gurney that was awaiting him," the report said.

He died a little over seven hours after arriving at the hospital.

Evidence from witnesses

The report said police knew Stephens had been armed with a knife during the motel robbery and held it to a victim's throat.

It also said that Stephens had told people hours before the shooting that he believed he was wanted by police for something that could get him 10-15 years in jail. According to the report, Stephens said "absolutely no way I am going back to jail you guys, I hope you know what that means." Police were unaware of this at the time of the shooting.

The toxicology report found the presence of THC, amphetamine and a "high level" of methamphetamine. 

"The violent and irrational behaviour ... is consistent with what has been observed in methamphetamine abusers who have a high concentration of this drug in their system," the report said.

The report said officers had conducted energy weapons but couldn't use them because "of the darkness and obstacles posed by the clutter in the basement." 

"The officer had the right to use lethal force against the suspect if it was reasonable to believe the suspect posed a risk of death or grievous bodily harm to him or others," the report said.

"In these circumstances there are no grounds to consider any charges against the officers. Their actions were justified at law."

Mother of victim responds to report

Stephens' mother, Gilda, released a statement in response to the report.

"To say that I am surprised and disappointed ... is an understatement," it read.

She also raised several concerns including the fact that officers had conducted energy weapons, and did not use them.

Among her concerns "the deeply troubling information received by my family today that, in fact, the subject officers who shot Jeremy did have [conducted energy weapons] in their possession at the time of the shooting and chose not to use them."

"I have more questions than ever before, and now, more than ever," her statement said.

"I believe that an inquest must be held into Jeremy's death to establish what actually happened to him through the cross-examination of witnesses under oath. I believe that this is extremely important to ensure that a death like Jeremy's at the hands of police does not happen to someone else."

The Coroner's Office confirmed it has Gilda Stephens' request, and says it will make a decision as to whether to launch an inquest in the coming weeks.

Summerside police respond

Summerside police issued a statement saying the report "confirms that the actions of our officers were justified under the circumstances they faced."

"We believe our officers acted responsibly by following established protocols in attempting to apprehend Mr. Stephens," it reads.

"The defensive measures ultimately employed were in direct response to the police officers having their own lives threatened and were in keeping with their training."

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