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Alberta police watchdog says 2022 police shooting of Calgary man was ‘reasonable’

Alberta’s police watchdog agency says Calgary officers were justified in using deadly force in an afternoon street confrontation with an armed man who refused multiple times to drop his knife and stabbed a police dog.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) says officers had little option in using deadly force against the man, later identifed as Latjor Tuel.

A report released Friday by the police watchdog said the overall action that day was “reasonable.”

“Officers acted slowly with an eye to de-escalation,” agency executive director Michael Ewenson wrote in the report.

“Force was used only when the risk increased, and the force increased incrementally.

“The subject officers’ actions were part of this overall reasonable police operation.”

The ASIRT report noted that on Feb. 19, 2022, Calgary police were called to respond to reports of a man in possession of weapons who had assaulted a bystander and was threatening others on a busy street east of downtown.

The report relied on video and witness evidence.

It found that when police arrived, they found Tuel still holding a walking stick and a knife. They tried unsuccessfully multiple times to get him to calm down and subdue him with non-lethal force to get him to drop the knife.

“You get me back to Sudan. To Southern Sudan. With all my things,” the suspect told them during the confrontation.

Tuel also told the officers, “Shoot. Kill me. Shoot. Go ahead, shoot.”

He eventually rushed the officers, stabbing the police dog before police shot him in his left wrist, right chest, left back and neck.

He died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.

The dog had massive blood loss and was sent to a veterinarian in life-threatening condition. The knife chipped one of the dog’s vertebrae and severed an artery. The dog survived the attack, according to media reports.

At the time, some community members said mental health resources should have been dispatched to assist Tuel, who had long experienced mental health issues.

Ewenson wrote that in some incidents where there may be mental health issues, health professionals may be able to defuse the situation. But he said there are limits to what kind of incidents it can be effective in.

“This was not a safe situation for a mental health professional to engage the [suspect] and the fact that this was not attempted does not affect the reasonableness of police action that day,” he wrote.

“Their uses of force were proportionate, necessary, and reasonable. As a result, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed.”

In a statement to CBC News, the Calgary Police Service said, while it appreciates the transparency the report provides and the objective conclusions of ASIRT, the force acknowledges that the conclusions of the report will not heal a family that has lost a loved one, or a community affected by that loss.

“We recognize that regardless of the ASIRT findings, there are issues that have been brought forward by the community that we are committed to working together to address,” the statement said.

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