By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
A Durham police officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with a January incident that left a Port Perry man dead.
An investigation by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) – the civilian agency that investigates police actions that cause a member of the public to be injured or killed – has determined that there are “no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against a Durham Regional Police Service officer in relation to the firearm death of a 59-year-old man in January of 2016 in Port Perry,” according to a news release from SIU.
According to the report, the officer responded to a 9-1-1 call concerning a man armed with a knife that was reportedly trying to kill himself, and was later told that the man in question has a female in the house.
Once he arrived on scene, a young woman jumped out of a car parked nearby, who the report described as “frantic,” yelling at the officer that someone in the house was “going to kill us.”
When the officer made his way up the driveway, he noticed another man walking toward him – as the officer aimed his flashlight at him, he could see he was armed with a butcher knife. The man refused to drop the knife was asked to by the officer, and was pressing the blade against his own chest.
By this time, the officer had his gun out and had it pointed at the man with the knife. When the man declined to drop the knife, the officer walked backwards, down the driveway and into the road. However, the man with the knife followed the officer, quickening his pace according to the report.
As the man with the knife made his way toward the officer, he “began repeating with increasing volume words to the effect of ‘shoot me’ and ‘kill me.’”
When the man was within three and four-and-a-half metres of the officer, he “fired his gun twice in rapid succession, striking him once.” Immediately after shooting him, the officer applied pressure to the man’s wound until emergency services arrived.
The man was later pronounced dead at Lakeridge Health Port Perry.
According to Tony Loparco, SIU’s director, the officer in question cannot be held criminally liable for what happened.
“Upon seeing the subject officer, the evidence establishes that the man decided to advance upon him with a knife. During that period, the officer conducted himself with an aim to stalling the man until another officer arrived with a conducted energy weapon. However, his efforts were to no avail. He issued repeated police challenges directing the man to drop the knife and get on the ground. The man ignored him,” Loparco writes in the report.
Loparco adds that the officer had considered other means of subduing the man, but given the circumstances, his reasoning was sound.
“The officer considered alternative use of force options to his firearm. However, he concluded that neither his baton nor his pepper spray would be appropriate in a situation involving close quarter combat with an individual wielding an edged weapon,” he writes.
“Both his thought process and his conclusion in this regard cannot be faulted. Aside from wielding a butcher knife and displaying both hostility and combativeness, the man was physically imposing, weighing approximately 240 pounds.”
The SIU director adds that the use of a gun in this instance was reasonable, as the officer was concerned about his own safety.
“The officer was faced with a dangerous and dynamic situation that unfolded quickly over a mere 52 seconds,” he writes.
“His fear for his own safety was both subjectively and objectively reasonable and his actions were directed towards self-preservation. His decision to fire his gun was reasonable in the circumstances, and he only did so when he had no other options.”
Dave Selby, a spokesperson for Durham police, says that the force would not be commenting on this investigation, as it is DRPS’ policy to not comment on reports from oversight bodies.