A man who was shot by Winnipeg police in October 2020 after he refused to drop an object in his hand was not actually carrying a weapon at the time, says a report from Manitoba’s police watchdog.
However, the Independent Investigation Unit is not recommending charges against the officers involved, saying it was reasonable to believe that the man had a gun in his hand based on the information available at the time.
The incident happened around 12:40 p.m. on Oct. 7, 2020, in the area of Boyd Avenue and Powers Street, in Winnipeg’s St. John’s neighbourhood.
Police were responding to reports of an armed man in a nearby alley, the Independent Investigation said in its report, released Wednesday.
Among the people interviewed by the investigative unit was the witness who called 911. He said that the man was standing outside his house and it looked like he was holding a Colt 1911 replica-style firearm.
Two other civilian witnesses also told the IIU it appeared that the man was holding the barrel of a gun. The three officers involved in the shooting said they observed the same thing.
“Virtually every witness believed the object to be a gun based on its appearance and handling,” the IIU report says.
The officers said that they shouted at the man, but he didn’t drop the object. They said there was too much distance between them and the man to use a Taser or take him into custody another way.
He then suddenly turned his body toward the officers, pointing the object at them.
That’s when the officers fired at him. The man sustained a single gunshot wound to his left hip area, which exited his lower back. Two of the officers said they thought they heard gunfire, and thought the man might have shot at them first.
He was taken to the Health Sciences Centre and survived the shooting.
An examination of the scene found several shell casings and a black plastic cylindrical tube measuring approximately 15 centimetres in length, but no firearm.
The Independent Investigation Unit interviewed the 26-year-old man while he was recovering in hospital. He said he was homeless and had been carrying around something he picked up off the ground while he was walking around on the day of the shooting, according to the IIU report.
The man said he remembered police telling him to drop the object, but he was “a little out of it” that day and froze. He said he had been drinking and had taken some drugs that day.
The police watchdog’s investigation concluded that the officers had limited choices based on the circumstances, and that they held a “reasonable and honest” belief that the man could have seriously injured or killed someone.
That led the investigative unit to conclude that there are no grounds to support any charges against any of the officers involved. The matter is now considered closed, the IIU says.
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