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Anatomy of a police shooting on the Whitefish Lake First Nation

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Alberta Serious Incident Response Team ASIRT

This is a compelling read and will help average citizens understand what members of Alberta’s police forces encounter in the course of their duties.

From the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team

Police shooting of armed man was reasonable

On Sept. 6, 2017, ASIRT was directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a 26-year-old man on the Whitefish Lake First Nation following an encounter with an RCMP officer that day.

ASIRT’s investigation was comprehensive and thorough, conducted using current investigative protocols and best practices. In addition to interviewing all relevant civilian and police witnesses, ASIRT seized all available video and audio recordings from the officer’s police vehicle, as well as all relevant police dispatch records, including recordings of the 911 calls and radio communications.  ASIRT directed a forensic examination of the incident scene and seized several physical exhibits. The RCMP officer provided a voluntary, written statement.

At the outset, ASIRT engaged an independent Indigenous community liaison to review the completed investigation. Upon completion of the investigation, the community liaison had full access to ASIRT’s investigative file and to the team assigned to the investigation. The liaison could ask questions of the investigative team and make recommendations where necessary. At the conclusion of this process, the community liaison confirmed that ASIRT’s investigation into this incident was thorough, complete, and objective.

On Sept. 6, 2017 at approximately 6:15 p.m., St. Paul RCMP received a 911 call from a woman indicating that a family member could be on the verge of hurting himself or others. She was concerned that he was suicidal, that he may be in medical distress, he appeared to be sweaty and clammy, and that he was not acting like himself. At the time of the call, she advised that the man was walking down the road carrying a baseball bat, while she and another family member followed behind in a vehicle, attempting to persuade him to enter their truck and return home.

Approximately six minutes later, a second person called 911 to report that two young women on a recreational vehicle had encountered a man walking on the road who had almost attacked them with a baseball bat. The caller advised that the man appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

An RCMP officer, in uniform and operating a marked police vehicle, responded to these calls. The officer spoke with the family member who told him that she believed the man would require an ambulance as he was sweating badly, and she advised that it appeared as if he wanted to commit suicide. She advised that they had been able to get the man into their truck, and the officer asked them to keep him there while he was on the way.

The second person called police again and advised that she had observed the man walking with a bat, provided the man’s possible first name and indicated that it appeared the man was trying to hit his parents with the bat while they were standing on their driveway.

The officer travelled to the scene with his vehicle’s emergency equipment activated for the majority of the trip. The officer’s police vehicle was equipped with both forward- and rear-facing video cameras. This system was operational and captured both camera perspectives on video with accompanying audio and recorded time stamps. The rear-facing camera was intended to capture the rear seat of the police vehicle, but provided a limited view to the sides of the vehicle and towards the back. While the cameras did not capture full frames of the entire incident, they did capture an audio recording of the incident in its entirety, and portions of video in which the officer and/or the man can be seen at various points. As such, there are aspects of these events that are reliably established by the available audio and video recordings.

At 7:04 p.m., the officer pulled up to the 26-year-old man, who was walking on the road. The officer exited his vehicle and, in a calm voice, addressed the man by name and asked him, “What’s going on?” Neither the officer nor the man were on camera. Within three seconds, the officer can be heard repeatedly calling out, “Drop the knife,” as he stepped into camera view on the driver’s side of his vehicle and rapidly backed away from where the man would have been. The man appeared to follow and the officer fired his Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW), commonly referred to as a Taser, which caused the man to drop to one knee but failed to disarm him. Very quickly, the man was able to rise and continue towards the officer. The officer continued to direct the man to “Drop the knife,” sounding increasingly more frantic, and continued to try to create space by backing away around the back of the police truck bed.

The armed man can be seen to clearly and quickly pursue the officer towards the rear of the police vehicle. At the rear of the police vehicle truck bed, both the man and the officer are off-camera but can still be heard. Having directed the man to again drop the knife multiple times following the use of the CEW, the officer can clearly be heard to tell the man, “Drop the knife or you’re going to get shot.” Within four seconds of this command and warning, and following two additional directions to drop the knife, at 7:04:47 p.m., two gunshots are heard. The officer immediately calls “shots fired” repeatedly over the police radio. Although the man initially fell to the ground after being shot, and can be heard groaning, he maintained possession of the knife and the officer can be heard to yell “Drop the knife,” an additional six times following the shots, before again radioing “shots fired.”

Approximately 10 seconds after the man was shot, the forward-facing camera recorded the man’s family pulling out of a driveway in the distance and onto the road, then driving up to the scene. The officer is instructing the man to get down on the ground and drop the knife, and can be seen on the passenger side of the police vehicle backing away from where the man would have been. As the family members began to exit the vehicle, the man was briefly seen to be pursuing the officer at the edge of the camera view but appears to fall or falter.

Upon the arrival of the family, the officer can be heard to repeatedly yell “stay back.” The two family members walked in the direction of the ongoing incident. The subject officer continued to yell commands to “get down” and “drop the knife.” Within seconds, a second civilian vehicle arrived on scene. The occupants were not related to the man or his family.

At this point, the man slowly got to his feet and advanced in the direction of the officer, making a swinging or thrusting motion with the knife. Simultaneously, on video, a family member retreated to the area in front of the police vehicle, crying, as the officer continued to yell “drop the knife” and ordering the man to “get down on the ground.” As the man advanced again on the officer, this family member could be seen and heard screaming and pleading with the man to “get down” at least twice, and shortly thereafter, begging him to “stay down.” Ultimately, the man’s injuries caused him to collapse. The officer provided emergency first aid until additional officers and EMS arrived on scene.

The man was pronounced deceased at 8:09 p.m. An autopsy determined that the man had sustained two gunshot wounds: one to the right flank and one to the right upper thigh. The second gunshot wound transected organs and major blood vessels, causing rapid and significant blood loss that became fatal within minutes. The medical examiner confirmed that these injuries would not have been instantly fatal, and that it would have been possible for the man to walk or move for some time after the injuries. A toxicology report revealed the presence only of prescription and over-the-counter medication, with no alcohol present in the man’s body.

Interviews with family members confirmed that the man had been acting strangely all day, being very quiet. At approximately 2 p.m., the man reportedly made a comment “today is the day,” which a family member interpreted as the man telling her he was going “to go” on this day. The man also told a family member, “I gave my soul to the devil,” and this family member felt that something was not right with the man. She believed him to be suffering from worsening mental health issues. She advised that the man would stare into space and have conversations with people who were not around.

The man’s knife, recovered at the scene, was similar to a filet or boning knife with an approximately five-inch handle and seven-inch blade.

ASIRT: Police shooting of armed man was reasonable

The officer, on duty, in full uniform and driving a fully marked RCMP vehicle, responded to several calls for assistance regarding the man’s actions. While the initial report was in relation to mental health concerns, subsequent calls were complaints of a weapons incident. In any case, the officer would have been lawfully entitled to take the man into custody under both the Mental Health Act and the Criminal Code. Considering these factors, the officer was at all times lawfully placed and acting in the course of his duty during his interactions with the man. The relevant consideration is thus the level of force used during the incident.

Under Sec. 25 of the Criminal Code, an officer is entitled to use as much force as necessary in the lawful execution of his or her duties. This can include force that is intended or likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm, when officers reasonably believe that such force is necessary to defend themselves or someone under their protection from death or grievous bodily harm. Further, under Sec. 34 of the Criminal Code, any person, including a police officer, is entitled to the use of reasonable force in defence of themselves or another. Factors in assessing the reasonableness of force used can include the use or threatened use of a weapon, the imminence of the threat, other options available, and the nature of the force or threat of force itself.

Having reviewed the evidence in this case, ASIRT executive director Susan D. Hughson, QC, has determined that there are no reasonable grounds nor even reasonable suspicion to believe that the officer committed any offences.

Looking at the evidence in its entirety, it is clear that the officer was responding to a call of an individual whose behaviour was erratic, who was possibly suicidal, who may have been involved in an incident where he swung a bat at two young women and who was also potentially armed. When the officer encountered the man, the evidence established that the man was armed with a knife and in a position to cause grievous bodily harm or death. The evidence also established that the man actively pursued the officer while armed with the knife. After the officer directed the man to “drop the knife” no less than 12 times, the officer used the CEW, which failed to disarm, disable or dissuade the man.

In these circumstances, the man both subjectively and objectively posed a risk of grievous bodily harm or death to the officer. The force used by the subject officer was justified and reasonable. The officer had diligently tried to avoid the use of lethal force as demonstrated by his repeated attempts to get the man to drop the knife, the unsuccessful use of the CEW as an intermediate weapon in an attempt to disarm and incapacitate the man, and his very clear warnings to drop the knife or the man would be shot. But as the man closed the distance, the officer was left with no other options.

The circumstances in this case speak to both the continuing nature of the threat itself, but also to the officer’s other efforts before resorting to a higher degree of force. Objectively, there can be no doubt that in these circumstances, while the officer clearly attempted to avoid it, resort to lethal force was both justified and reasonable.

It is impossible to determine what the man actually intended. The only indication of what he might have been thinking is what might be inferred from his conduct. He was not behaving rationally, was clearly actively and aggressively advancing on the officer with the knife and was not deterred by the CEW, the repeated commands and warning — or, in fact, even being shot. He continued his pursuit of the officer until he could physically no longer do so.

A person in the midst of a mental health crisis is as capable as any other person of causing grievous bodily harm or death to another person. That person can be even more dangerous given one cannot expect them to respond rationally to the situation or an officer’s presence. The evidence established that the officer used every tool available to him to try and avoid having to use lethal force, until the point that he had no other safe option to protect himself but lethal force. On that basis, the level of force employed, while tragic, was lawful.

Having found that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the officer committed any offences, the officer will not be charged.

This finding does not diminish the tragedy of the loss for the family of this young man, who was clearly in the midst of some form of health crisis, nor how devastating the incident was for the family members who were present for portions of this event. ASIRT extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of the man.

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Crime

July 4 parade shooting leaves 6 dead, 30 hurt; man detained

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HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) — A shooter fired on an Independence Day parade from a rooftop in suburban Chicago, spraying the crowd with gunshots initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of panicked revelers of all ages fled in terror. At least six people were killed and at least 30 wounded.

An hourslong manhunt during which residents hunkered down in businesses or received police escorts to their homes ended with a traffic stop and brief chase Monday evening, when authorities detained a man they described as a person of interest. They gave no motive for the attack in Highland Park, a close-knit community on the shores of Lake Michigan that has long drawn the rich and sometimes famous

The July 4 shooting was just the latest to shatter the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become killing grounds in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to find cause to celebrate its founding and the bonds that still hold it together.

“It definitely hits a lot harder when it’s not only your hometown but it’s also right in front of you,” resident Ron Tuazon said as he and a friend returned to the parade route Monday evening to retrieve chairs, blankets and a child’s bike that he and his family abandoned when the shooting began.

“It’s commonplace now,” Tuazon said. “We don’t blink anymore. Until laws change, it’s going to be more of the same.”

The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points early in the day for the annual celebration.

Among them was Nicolas Toledo, who was visiting his family in Illinois from Mexico. He was shot and died at the scene, his granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Also killed was Jacki Sundheim, a lifelong congregant and “beloved” staff member at nearby North Shore Congregation Israel, which announced her death on its website.

Dozens of fired bullets sent hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fleeing. They left a trail of abandoned items that showed everyday life suddenly, violently disrupted: a box of chocolate cookies spilled onto the grass; a child’s Chicago Cubs cap; baby strollers, some bearing American flags.

“There’s no safe place,” said Highland Park resident Barbara Harte, 73, who had stayed away from the parade fearing a mass shooting, but later ventured from her home.

Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer pulled over Robert E. Crimo III about 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of the shooting scene, several hours after police released the man’s photo and warned that he was likely armed and dangerous.

Authorities initially said Crimo, whose father once ran for mayor of Highland Park, was 22, but an FBI bulletin and Crimo’s social media said he was 21.

Police declined to immediately identify Crimo as a suspect but said identifying him as a person of interest, sharing his name and other information publicly was a serious step.

Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference “several of the deceased victims” died at the scene and one died at a hospital. Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said the five people killed at the parade were adults, but didn’t have information on the sixth.

Police have not released details about the victims, but Toledo’s granddaughter told the Sun-Times that Toledo had spent most of his life in Morelos, Mexico. Xochil Toledo said she remembers looking over at her grandfather, who was in his late 70s, as a band passed them.

“He was so happy,” she said. “Happy to be living in the moment.”

Xochil Toledo said her father tried to shield her grandfather and was shot in the arm; her boyfriend also was shot in the back and taken by someone to nearby hospital because they weren’t sure there would be enough ambulances for all the victims.

Roberto Velasco, Mexico’s director for North American affairs, said on Twitter that two Mexicans were also wounded.

Sundheim had spent decades on the staff at North Shore Congregation Israel, early on teaching at the congregation’s preschool and later serving as Events and B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator, “all of this with tireless dedication,” the congregation said in its statement announcing her death.

“Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all,” the statement said.

NorthShore University Health Center received 26 patients after the attack. All but one had gunshot wounds, said Dr. Brigham Temple, medical director of emergency preparedness. Their ages ranged from 8 to 85, and Temple estimated that four or five were children.

“It is devastating that a celebration of America was ripped apart by our uniquely American plague,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference.

“While we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly — yes, weekly — American tradition.”

Since the start of the year, there have been 15 shootings where four or more people have been killed, including the Highland Park one, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University mass killing database.

The shooter opened fire around 10:15 a.m., when the parade was about three-quarters through, authorities said.

Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill, the incident commander on scene, said the gunman apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a commercial building where he was “very difficult to see.” He said the rifle was recovered at the scene. Police also found a ladder attached to the building.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told NBC’s “Today” show that she did not know where the gun came from but that it was “legally obtained.”

President Joe Biden on Monday said he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”

In recent days, Biden signed the widest-ranging gun violence bill passed by Congress in decades, a compromise that reflected at once both progress on a long-intractable issue and the deep-seated partisan divide that persists.

Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, posting on social media dozens videos and songs, some ominous and violent.

In one animated video since taken down by YouTube, Crimo raps about armies “walking in darkness” as a drawing appears of a man pointing a rifle, a body on the ground and another figure with hands up in the distance.

Crimo’s father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Highland Park in 2019, calling himself “a person for the people.”

The community of about 30,000 on Chicago’s north shore has mansions and sprawling lakeside estates and was once home to NBA legend Michael Jordan. John Hughes filmed parts of several movies in the city, including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles” and “Weird Science.”

Gina Troiani and her 5-year-old son were lined up with his daycare class ready to walk onto the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she believed was fireworks — until she heard people yell about a shooter.

“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she told The Associated Press. “There were people that got separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their wagons, grabbed their kids and started running.”

___

Foody contributed from Chicago. Associated Press writers Martha Irvine and Mike Householder in Highland Park; Mike Balsamo and Bernard Condon in New York; David Koenig in Dallas; Jeff Martin in Woodstock, Georgia; Fabiola Sánchez in Monterrey, Mexico; and Jim Mustian in New Orleans contributed reporting.

Michael Tarm, Kathleen Foody And Roger Schneider, The Associated Press

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Alberta

Missing 13-year-old Edmonton girl found alive in Oregon, 41-year-old man arrested

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EDMONTON — Police say a 13-year-old Edmonton girl missing for more than a week has been found alive in the United States.

She was located following a week-long search that began when she was seen arriving at her junior high school but didn’t show up for class.

Edmonton Police Insp. Brent Dahlseide says the girl, who was reported missing June 24, is currently in an Oregon hospital for a precautionary examination after being found safe in the state early Saturday morning.

Dahlseide says a 41-year-old Oregon man will be charged with child luring and is expected to face additional charges in Canada and the U.S.

He says Edmonton police received assistance from other agencies in Canada, as well as from the FBI and other police services in the U.S.

Dahlseide says it’s believed the suspect came to Edmonton, but it’s not yet clear how he initially made contact with the girl or how she crossed the U.S. border.

“We would be speculating to say they crossed the border together, but I do know that they were located together, again, in the U.S. once they gained entry,” Dahlseide told reporters during an online news conference Saturday, noting he believed the two had been communicating online.

“I don’t know how long they may have been in contact with one another. I do know that the reason we’re going with a child-luring charge at this point is that it’s one we can support because of some of the online history.”

Photos of the girl have appeared on billboards and posters across Alberta this past week asking people to be on the lookout for her and contact police with tips.

Dahlseide said an Amber Alert was not issued because investigators lacked a description of a suspect or a suspect vehicle. He said police got that information on Friday and were drafting the alert that afternoon when they learned from Canada Border Services the suspect had crossed into the U.S.

At that point the suspect was no longer in Canadian jurisdiction, Dahlseide explained, which is another criteria for an Amber Alert. He said they made a deduction about where the suspect was going and alerted authorities on the U.S. side.

Dahlseide said he believed the arrest was made outside Gladstone, Oregon, just south of Portland, away from the suspect’s residence. He said the suspect’s name would not be released until charges are formally laid.

He said the girl’s family were informed early Saturday she’d been found safe and they are making arrangements to bring her home.

“I’m sure we likely woke them up, showing up at their door so early,” Dahlseide said.

Canadian investigators have not had a chance to speak with the girl or the suspect yet, Dahlseide said, and other questions remain.

He said investigators believe the suspect was in Mission, B.C. for three to four days, so they’ll be asking RCMP there to speak to people who may have seen him or the girl during that time. The FBI will also be able to help supply bank or credit card information to piece together the suspect’s movements, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022

Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

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