Saskatoon

'It was my decision': SWAT team leader defends call to ram bedroom door in fatal 2016 standoff

The senior Saskatoon SWAT team member has told an inquest into the death of Joshua Megeney that his decision to ram through a bedroom door came after fruitless attempts to start a conversation with the break-and-enter suspect who turned out to be armed. When the door was breached, three officers testified, Megeney aimed a rifle at them and they opened fire.

Sgt. Ken Kane says the idea was simply to talk with Joshua Megeney

Josh Megeney was shot and killed during a standoff with police on Oct. 6, 2016. (Facebook )

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Accident, suicide, homicide? Jury to decide how Joshua Megeney came to be shot by SWAT member

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The senior Saskatoon SWAT team member has told an inquest into the death of Joshua Megeney that his decision to ram through a bedroom door came after fruitless attempts to start a conversation with the break-and-enter suspect who turned out to be armed.

After the door was breached, according to earlier testimony, Megeney was seen pointing a rifle at officers, prompting them to shoot. 

"It was not at all to be confrontational. It was the opposite," Sgt. Ken Kane said of ramming the door.

Sgt. Ken Kane with the Saskatoon SWAT team. (CBC)

Kane, as a full-time supervisor within the force's tactical support unit, said his decision to breach the door came after fruitless attempts to start a conversation with Megeney and find out more about him and whether he posed a threat. 

Anything we did that day was a reaction to what the suspect was doing.- Sgt. Ken Kane, SWAT leader

"Am I dealing with a teenager?" Or someone who someone just didn't want to go to jail? Kane said he asked himself. 

"Anything we did that day was a reaction to what the suspect was doing," Kane said while under cross-examination by Scott Spencer, the lawyer representing the Megeney family.

"What we were dealing with and what I believed it was were completely different things. Unfortunately, it had a very tragic ending, which I deeply regret."

Spencer took Kane to task for his testimony, telling the jury: "We're not going to get done if he [Kane] gets to give speeches."

That prompted presiding coroner Alma Wiebe to caution Spencer to show the witness more courtesy. 

Police were responding to a reported break-and-enter at a Avenue Q North home in October 2016 when they came upon Megeney, who had barricaded himself in the room.

"I wasn't treating this as an armed barricade, not knowing the condition of that room," Kane said, adding that the homeowner had told him guns were secured in a safe in the bedroom's closet. 

Police called out several times to Megeney, but Megeney could not be clearly heard. Sometimes he didn't respond, Kane said. 

With the door to the bedroom closed "there was no dialogue, no negotiation. We didn't have a way to adequately communicate," Kane said.

Kane said he decided more than an hour after police arrived at the home to ram the door with a rubber pipe filled with about 14 kilograms worth of lead or sand.

Besides improving communication, Kane said, the goal was to throw a phone to Megeney.

"That was Step 1 before we ever had to make entry in there," Kane said.

Why breach when guns known to be in room?

Kane testified that officers learned before they breached the door that the gun safe in the bedroom could be broken into with tools, after being told earlier by the homeowner that the guns were secure.

Asked why they then rammed the door, Kane said, "Most people don't store tools in a master bedroom."

It's normal for officers not to warn a suspect that they're going to ram a door, he added. 

According to Const. Jesse Jackson — the officer whose bullet is believed to have struck Megeney after the door was rammed — Megeney said after the breach that he had a lot of "forties," police slang for guns. 

Three officers have testified they saw Megeney pointing a rifle at them. Two officers fired a total of three rounds at him. 

The decision to ram the bedroom door has come under attack by Scott Spencer, the lawyer representing the Megeney family.

Officers defend tactics

He argued that if Megeny had warned them that he was heavily armed, "that should have started a retreat," Spencer argued.

But officers testifying at the inquest have defended their tactics, saying their primary goal was to ensure public safety by keeping their eyes on a man they knew was armed.

Dr. Shaun Ladham, Saskatchewan's chief forensic pathologist, testified that Megeney's wound was consistent with a rifle round fired from a distance. There were no other signs of major injury on his body.

"Most likely [death] was instantaneous," Ladham said.

The six-person civilian jury has previously heard that Megeney's body was found and identified hours later after a police robot went through bedroom window.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

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