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ASIRT says police shooting was reasonable action


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Alberta Serious Incident Response Team ASIRT

From the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team:

Shooting reasonable during CPS critical incident

On Sept. 29, 2017, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a 22-year-old man by members of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) that day. During the arrest, one CPS member fired his service pistol, resulting in the man sustaining an injury.

ASIRT interviewed all relevant police and civilian witnesses, including the 22-year-old man, about the events. Radio communication audio recordings, 911 open call recording, and CCTV video, including video from inside the convenience store where the incident occurred, were secured. The involved officer declined to provide a statement, as is his constitutional right.

Having reviewed the investigation, executive director Susan Hughson, QC, has come to the conclusion that force used during this incident was both reasonable and justified.

At approximately 8:08 p.m. that day, CPS received a 911 call reporting that a man, armed with a knife, was inside the 7-Eleven store located 4604 37 Street SW. The caller reported that the man, who wasn’t wearing a shirt, entered the store holding a can of beer and a knife, and had approached her asking for a lighter. As she spoke with the 911 dispatcher, the man grabbed her cellphone, entered the mailroom storage area and refused to leave.

A CPS officer, who came into the 7-Eleven store to buy something, became aware of the situation and talked to the man through the closed door of the storage room. At the same time, CPS dispatched officers in response to the call and customers were evacuated from the store. The cellphone taken from the 911 caller remained an open line, capturing audio of the incident and the conversation between the man and police. Once additional CPS officers were on-scene, police used the cellphone to continue to speak with the man.

While inside the storage area, the man set fire to the room and refused to come out. The man requested water, and officers persuaded him to exit the room to take a bottle of water. The man left the burning room briefly, still holding a knife. Officers shouted commands to drop the knife and deployed a Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW), commonly referred to as a Taser. It had no impact and the man quickly returned to the storage room. As the fire progressed, it disabled the store’s electrical power and the building switched to its emergency lighting system.

The man again left the storage room, still armed with the knife, and officers deployed a CEW two additional times, but the man was able to return to the room. At this point, it is likely that the growing fire made it difficult for the man to stay inside the room, as he emerged again shortly after. This time, he came out holding the knife and ran toward the officers. An officer fired two rounds from his service pistol, striking the man in the shoulder. The man fell to the ground and began stabbing himself in the neck with the knife. When he ignored verbal commands from officers to drop the knife, officers deployed a CEW again to stop the man from harming himself. While it successfully stopped the man from continuing to stab himself in the neck, it did not cause him to drop the knife. A police service dog was deployed to drag the man into an open area, where he was successfully disarmed. At this point, the smoke in the building was described as being almost intolerable.

Officers carried the man out of the burning building to a waiting ambulance, which provided emergency care and transported him to hospital. The man was treated for his injuries, including burns to his back, chest, and hands, and a gunshot wound to the shoulder. He was subsequently booked into custody at the Calgary Remand Centre. On Dec. 23, 2017, shortly after his release, the 22-year-old man died in circumstances unrelated to his contact with police on Sept. 29, 2017 or the physical injuries he sustained.

Initially, police responded to an armed man with a knife who had stolen a phone from an employee and effectively barricaded himself in a storage room at a public convenience store. His behaviour was erratic, unpredictable and concerning. While he appeared intent on self-harm, he still had the ability to hurt someone else. The fact that he was high and in the midst of a mental health crisis did not make him less dangerous and, arguably, would make him more dangerous as he was not making rational decisions or choices. Initially, all the CPS officers tried to do, was to “talk out” the situation to encourage his surrender. Unfortunately, when the man started a fire, it significantly increased the urgency of the situation for all involved, and limited the options available to police. As well, the limited visibility and the increasingly difficult environment inside the store made the situation even more problematic. Officers tried twice to apprehend him using intermediate force options, but both attempts were unsuccessful. This is the reality of some situations. Plans fail and officers regroup and look for alternate opportunities or approaches. Up until the final time the man emerged from the storage room, there was no intention to resort to lethal force and the plan was still to try and extricate him from the situation as safely as possible, with no loss of life.

Under Sec. 25 of the Criminal Code, police officers are entitled to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to carry out their lawful duties. Furthermore, 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. An assessment of the reasonableness of force used requires consideration of the nature of the threat presented, the urgency of the situation, and the availability of other alternatives. In this case, the action of running directly towards a police officer, in close proximity, while armed with a knife created a serious and immediate threat. In the circumstances, it would be reasonable for the officer to perceive a threat capable of causing death or grievous bodily harm to himself, other officers or any other person. Accordingly, it is reasonable that he resorted to the use of lethal force.

This incident began and escalated due to the effects of drugs and their interaction with pre-existing mental health issues. In light of these factors, it is extremely unfortunate that the man sustained an injury during his arrest, but the escalation of the situation and the interpretation of his actions following his final exit from the room created a reasonable apprehension that he presented a risk of grievous bodily harm or death to an officer. Considering that assessment, the force used to address that danger was reasonable given all of the circumstances.

As such, there are no reasonable grounds, nor even reasonable suspicion, to believe that the officer committed any Criminal Code offence. All officers were lawfully placed and acting in the lawful execution of their duties. They all attempted to exercise restraint until the armed man, desperately suicidal, forced their hand. The force employed was reasonable in the circumstances. As such, no charges are appropriate.

ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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New app uses AI to help Calgary medical students practise interacting with patients

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A Calgary medical student has developed a new app that allows future doctors to work on their diagnostic and communication skills before they set up their practices. Eddie Guo, seen in an undated handout photo, is a second-year student at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. He says that one of the challenges in medical school is becoming better at interacting with patients. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Calgary

By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A Calgary medical student has developed an app that allows future doctors to work on their diagnostic and communication skills before they set up their practices.

Eddie Guo, a second-year student at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, said one of the challenges beyond the book learning in medical school is becoming better at interacting with patients.

As a result, he’s turned to the rapidly growing area of artificial intelligence to create a number of virtual patients, with a variety of health conditions, that a student can talk to.

“It’s good to get more than just two or four hours of the practice we get in medical school to really be able understand what it’s like to communicate in a real-life scenario,” said Guo.

“We think it’s a good idea to have more than a few hours of practice before actually going out into the wild and seeing patients for the first time.”

Guo created a program, called OSCE-GPT, where the computer is the patient. Users choose the patient’s gender and can select a scenario or let the computer decide on one for them.

“I’m Ben Johnson and I’ve been having some really bad abdominal pains over the past two days. It’s in the right upper quadrant and it spreads to my back,” said the robotic male voice in the program.

“I’ve also been feeling nauseous and vomiting. I’m here in the emergency department because of the pain.”

The AI patient can answer questions about its condition and, after the conversation, provides feedback to the student along with a list of other questions that could have been asked.

Guo said until he is finally allowed on the medical wards, the only other interactions he gets are with standardized patients, professional actors who present with various conditions.

“As you can imagine, they’re really quite good at their job, but they’re also very expensive,” Guo said.

“We don’t get that much opportunity really to practise speaking with a patient, and so what this app was born out of was a lack of possibility to practise.”

Guo collaborated with medical resident Dr. Mehul Gupta. He said this kind of additional help will make for better doctors.

“One of the things we learn again and again in medical school, and that’s reinforced again in residency, is that the history you take from a patient is almost 99 per cent of the diagnosis that you make and the impression you make on a patient the first time you speak with them is long-lasting,” Gupta said.

“If you have the opportunity to practise to tailor your questions to see how you could have done better, you really do become a better doctor overall.”

Guo said the app is still being upgraded and at this point there is no image of a patient that shows up on the screen. He said he is hoping that things like a chest X-ray, a CT scan or a picture of someone’s skin could be incorporated into the program.

Within the first month of the app’s launch, more than 550 health-care trainees from Canada and across the world including Europe, India, Saudi Arabia and the United States signed on.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.

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Officials say some patients showing ‘severe symptoms’ in Calgary daycare outbreak

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The entrance to the emergency department at Peter Lougheed hospital is pictured in, Calgary on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. An Alberta health official says some of the 22 patients in hospital after an E. coli outbreak at several Calgary daycares have severe symptoms. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Bill Graveland in Calgary

An Alberta health official says some of the 22 patients in hospital after an E. coli outbreak at several Calgary daycares have severe symptoms.

Alberta Health Services says there are now 96 laboratory-confirmed cases due to the outbreak, which is up from 56 on Tuesday.

Dr. Francesco Rizzuti, medical officer of health for the Calgary Zone, said Wednesday that the number in hospital has risen from 15. He said 16 are at Alberta Children’s Hospital and six are at Peter Lougheed Centre.

“The majority of individuals that get sick from E. coli generally improve on their own and without specific treatment, typically within 10 days,” Rizzuti said.

“However, a small portion may develop more severe complications. Currently, we have a handful of children who are hospitalized with these more serious illnesses related to this outbreak.”

Rizzuti said that due to privacy concerns, he couldn’t say how many are suffering from severe symptoms. He also would not would confirm any of them have hemolytic uremic syndrome, also known has HUS, which affects the kidneys and causes blood clots.

“Hemolytic uremic syndrome can be a severe consequence. At this time, because we do have small numbers and I want to respect the privacy of the parents, I’m unable to speak to the exact numbers,” he said.

“But it is a small proportion of our laboratory-confirmed cases who do have severe illness and are in hospital at the moment.”

Rizzuti said it was his decision to close six Calgary Fueling Brains daycares and five others out of an abundance of caution after he received calls from city emergency wards.

He said it could take a while before the investigation into the source of the E. coli is found. Public health officers have already taken samples from the central kitchen shared by the daycares.

“They collected a number of food samples, both leftover foods as well as frozen foods, from the site and these are being tested in our laboratory. These do take some time,” Rizzuti said.

“Typically in outbreaks like this, we may not find a food source.”

Faisal Alimohd, co-founder and chairman of Fueling Brains, said he’s saddened that children are sick and immediately began working with AHS to investigate the outbreak.

“Though not all Fueling Brains child-care campuses are currently classified as being on outbreak status by AHS, we have proactively closed all potentially impacted locations as a precaution,” Alimohd said in a statement.

“The exact source of the outbreak has not been identified, but we will be reviewing our policies, procedures and sourcing related to food services for our facilities.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 6, 2023.

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