Officers legally justified to shoot at man with less-lethal guns in Milton, SIU finds

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Published May 30, 2023 at 7:05 pm

An ARWEN launcher, via the SIU.

Two Halton Regional Police Officers were “legally justified” to shoot a man in Milton with less-than-lethal guns after he barricaded himself in his home and threatened the officers.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) looks into all interactions with police that result in civilian death or serious injury or when an officer fires a weapon. In this case, they were called to investigate two officers who shot at man with less-lethal guns, an ARWEN launcher, and a shotgun loaded with bean bags.

The man was causing as disturbance inside his home on Bronte St. in Milton on January 30. A witness called police around 1 a.m. that day to report the man was screaming and banging at things inside of his apartment.

Several Halton officers arrived on the scene shortly afterward. They were greeted by the “belligerent” man who accused them of not being real police officers before slamming his door. The officers tried to communicate through the door. However. the man remained “highly agitated, screaming and uttering profanities,” the SIU later wrote, “He threatened to kill the officers and warned that he would not be taken alive.”

At this point, the officers decided to arrest the man if he left the apartment. Sure enough, at around 2:30 a.m. he stepped out wielding a screwdriver above his head. At this point an officer fired the bean-bag loaded shotgun but missed the man. The shot instead struck the doorframe and the man retreated inside. He continued to shout and threaten the officers, telling them he was armed with an axe.

After an hours-long standoff, officers with the Tactical Response Unit arrived on scene around 5 a.m. They spent nearly an hour trying to communicate with the man, but “found little success.” They decided to breach the door and try to communicate through the open entryway.

When an officer tried to break open the door, he found it had been blocked by a fridge. The officers used a remote camera to find the man inside. He then emerged from a bedroom and rushed toward the officers.

An officer tasered the man and he retreated back to the bedroom doorway. He said he was armed with a gun and would use it to kill the officers. At around 7:20 a.m. the officers advanced toward the bedroom and found the man sitting on a dresser. An officer fired three ARWEN rounds, striking the man once.

An ARWEN round fired at the man.

After he was hit, the man bolted across the room and another officers tackled him from behind a ballistic shield. The man struggled with the shield-armed officer, tugging at the officer’s clothes near the officer’s gun. The shield-armed officer tasered the man as did another officer.

The SIU soon launched an investigation into the firearms discharge and found the officers were justified in shooting at him. Citing the police immunity in using force to carry out their duties, SIU Director Joseph Martino found the “officials were lawfully placed and in the execution of their duty when they sought to arrest” the man.

The man “had threated to kill the officers outside his door and was exhibiting highly manic and irrational behaviour. He was clearly subject to arrest under the Criminal Code and the Mental Health Act.”

“I am further satisfied that the two less-lethal firearm discharges were legally justified,” Martino continued, “I am unable to fault the officer for attempting to temporarily immobilize the [man] from a distance with the use of his weapon. Had it worked and the Complainant been struck, it could well have been that an arrest would have been made at that point without serious injury and further force.”

“In all of this, it should be noted that the officers had attempted to de-escalate the situation through dialogue before resorting to their weapons. Regrettably, the [man] was of unsound mind at the time and unable to respond in kind,” Martino concluded.

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