SIU clears Peel officer in wounding of man with fake suicide belt

Ontario's police watchdog says a Peel Regional Police officer who shot and wounded a man wearing a fake suicide belt strapped to his waist was acting in self-defence a year ago in Mississauga and no charges are warranted.

Man, 26, shot 5 times, was on ground for an hour-and-a-half before being taken to hospital

The Special Investigations Unit has cleared a Peel Regional Police officer in the shooting and wounding of a 26-year-old man who was wearing a 'makeshift imitation explosive device' around his waist a year ago in Mississauga. (CBC)

Ontario's police watchdog says a Peel Regional Police officer who shot and wounded a man wearing a fake suicide belt strapped to his waist was acting in self-defence a year ago and no charges are warranted.

Joseph Martino, acting director of the Special Investigations Unit, said the officer "feared for his life" during the incident, which took place on Nov. 14, 2015 at 1 a.m. on Grand Forks Road, west of Golden Orchard Drive, near Burnhamthorpe Public School in Mississauga.

The man, 26, was shot five times, and suffered wounds to his abdomen, left thigh and scrotum, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the SIU. He was taken to hospital an hour-and-a-half after he was shot, and was released the next day.

"I have no hesitation in concluding that the shooting in question was justified in self-defence," Martino said in the release.

"The subject officer had no reason to doubt that the man meant what he said, when he threatened to kill the officer while wearing an apparent explosive around his body. The officer knew, as they responded to the area in search of the man, that he had called the police indicating he had a bomb and was planning to set it off.  

"In fact, it had been the man's very intention to deceive those around him into believing he really had an explosive device strapped around his waist. The contraption he put together proved effective."

Martino said the force's tactical unit deployed a robot after the shooting to monitor the man from a distance. Officers didn't approach him until it was clear there were no explosives.

Martino said the officer who fired his gun did not have time to find out if the man was telling the truth.

"Of course, as the man was not actually armed with any weapons, the officer was mistaken in his assessment of the threat," Martino said. "Be that as it may, his mistake, made in the heat of the moment with no time to take the man other than at his word, was entirely reasonable in the circumstances."

Man upset with family the night before

On the night of the incident, Martino said the man went to the area of Burnhamthorpe Road East and Dixie Road. He called 911 on his cell, said he was wearing a suicide belt and he planned to set it off partly because his "people" were being killed in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The night before, he was upset with family. He had left home with the electrical cord of a hair clipper around his waist. The clipper end was in his right pocket, while the clipper pouch was hanging from the cord at his waist.

Martino said the man had put together a "makeshift imitation explosive device" to scare his family into thinking he was going to kill himself.

The SIU news released outlined the sequence of events from that evening as determined by the agency's investigation.

Police were dispatched to the scene after the 911 call. The officer who ended up shooting the man and another officer arrived at the scene in separate cruisers, stopping in the middle of the intersection of Golden Orchard Drive and Grand Forks Road. The man began to walk toward the cruisers.

The first officer got out of his vehicle, pointed a flashlight at the man and asked if he called police.

The man continued walking toward the officer, who saw a black strap around the man's waist and a black device in his right hand. When he got to within 10 to 15 metres, the man began to yell that he was going to blow up the officers.

The second officer got out of his vehicle and sought cover behind it. He pointed his gun at the man. The first officer retreated between the two cruisers, drew his weapon and fired. The man was about six metres from the officer when he was shot.

Martino said the shooting "amounted to reasonable force in self-defence by an officer engaged in the lawful execution of his duty."

The SIU interviewed two witnesses and six witness officers, including the injured man and the second officer. It also interviewed the officer who fired his gun.

Ontario's SIU investigates whenever there is a death, serious injury or allegation of sexual assault involving police in the province.