Police watchdog clears officer for firing at man who fatally ‘ambushed’ 2 cops in Innisfil

Ontario’s police watchdog says a South Simcoe police officer didn’t commit any crimes when he fired upon a man who had fatally shot two other police officers in Innisfil last October.

In a report released Wednesday, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said three officers responded on Oct. 11 after a woman called police asking them to remove a family member from the home who had broken her eyeglasses and punched a hole in the wall.

After the officers were invited inside, the SIU says the gunman, who “waited in ambush” at the bottom of the dark basement stairs, fatally shot Const. Devon Northrup and Const. Morgan Russell, who did not have their weapons drawn.

The SIU says the third officer fired back and when he looked into the basement, he saw the gunman was dead.

A picture of Const. Morgan Russell, left, and Const. Devon Northrup, identified as the two South Simcoe Police Service officers killed after attending a call in Innisfil, Ont., is displayed on a monitor at Innisfil Town Hall on Oct. 12, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“While wearing a ballistic vest, the Complainant had waited in ambush for the police officers to arrive at his residence and then fired at the officers multiple times,” SIU director Joseph Martino wrote in the report.

The officer acted “lawfully” when he fired at the 22-year-old man, in a home about 80 kilometres north of Toronto, near 25th Sideroad and 9th Line. 

The gunfire caused a “graze wound” to the man’s lower left leg, but it did not kill him. The man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the SIU said.

Russell and Northup were pronounced dead in hospital. The man died at the scene.

Martino said the third officer “was firing blind to an extent” into the basement where the man was, but there is no evidence to suggest the officer committed an offence.

The report also notes the officer declined to be interviewed for the investigation, but authorized the release of his notes.

“It was imperative in the moment that the [subject officer] do what he could to immediately deter the Complainant from continuing to fire his weapon, and the officer’s gun was the only weapon at his disposal capable of doing that,” Martino said.

The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of police officers that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and the discharge of a firearm at a person. 

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