Man fatally shot by police ran at them with knives, Edmonton officers’ actions justified: ASIRT

An investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team found that the actions of Edmonton police officers, who fatally shot a 26-year-old man on Jan. 2, 2019, in Gold Bar, were justified and non-criminal.

An ASIRT report released Thursday described a tense, hours-long incident that started with a spousal assault complaint.

Read more: Man dies during police shooting in Edmonton’s Gold Bar neighbourhood

A woman told police she had been assaulted, choked, confined and had her life threatened repeatedly in the preceding days by her boyfriend. A warrant was issued for the man for a number of offences including two counts of assault causing bodily harm, unlawful confinement and uttering threats.

ASIRT said the woman was at the hospital for a CT scan. She thought her teenage daughter was at a friend’s house but found out the daughter was actually at home alone. The woman also found out that her boyfriend had broken into the house. The woman’s mother called 911 while the woman left the hospital against medical advice to get back to her house where the man was threatening suicide.

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Police arrived at the house and saw a window had been smashed in.

Click to play video: 'Man dies during police shooting in Edmonton’s Gold Bar neighbourhood'

Man dies during police shooting in Edmonton’s Gold Bar neighbourhood

According to ASIRT’s report, officers were standing within 10 to 15 feet of the front door when the man “slammed the door open and ran towards the officers, armed with a knife in each hand.”

He was “aggressive,” “threatening” and moved “quickly,” civilian witnesses reported.

ASIRT said that as officers yelled commands, including to drop the knives, one of the officers discharged an ARWEN, which fires a less-lethal round. That only slightly slowed him down. One officer backed up but was blocked by a bush and the man continued to run at the officers.

Both officers discharged their firearms, striking the man. He fell forward, dropping one of the two knives, ASIRT said. Both knives had blades that were about eight inches long. One was a thicker chef knife and one was a thinner carving knife, the ASIRT report said.

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He was restrained, provided with emergency medical attention and then pronounced dead.

Read more: ASIRT says man killed by Edmonton police in Gold Bar was armed with 2 knives

An autopsy found the man had six gunshot wounds and the medical examiner determined he died from multiple gunshot wounds. The man also had several “relatively superficial lacerations to his neck,” ASIRT said. “Based on the available evidence, these were self-inflicted wounds.

“In the basement, police located blood, two box cutters, and a rope fashioned into a noose hanging from the rafters.”

The man who died had a history of serious violent offences in both Alberta and the Northwest Territories, the ASIRT report found. “At the time of the officer-involved shooting, he was also on various forms of release for a variety of offences, including those involving violence, and had outstanding warrants.”

Click to play video: 'Man dies during Edmonton police shooting'

Man dies during Edmonton police shooting

The report explained that under the Criminal Code, police officers can use as much force as necessary to execute their duties. “When this force is intended or likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm, the officer must believe on reasonable grounds that the force is necessary for the self-preservation of the officer or preservation of anyone under that officer’s protection,” ASIRT explained.

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The investigators determined that there were no reasonable grounds to believe that either officer committed any criminal offences that day.

In fact, the man “may have intended to commit suicide by engaging with the police in the way he did,” said the report, signed by ASIRT executive director Michael Ewenson.

What is clear, the report said, was that the man “presented an immediate risk of serious injury or death to the subject officers that day. He very clearly showed no hesitation in moving aggressively towards the officers with clear determination, having armed himself with two knives. The use of lethal force in response was lawful, reasonable, and justified.”

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