Alberta’s police watchdog has determined that Calgary officers “acted responsibly” in a 2016 incident that left a 49-year-old man dead.
The Alberta Serious Response Team launched an investigation into the man’s Nov. 22, 2016 death. He was shot and killed by police following several attempts to arrest him.
Global News identified the man killed as Terrence Weinmeyer.
On Nov. 22, Calgary police began surveillance at about 3 p.m. on a blue pickup truck believed to have been stolen two days before.
The vehicle parked outside a fast-food restaurant at the Bowmont Shopping Mall at about 3:15 p.m., stopping with about 60 centimetres to one metre of distance between the driver’s side door and an SUV. According to ASIRT, officers in unmarked vehicles entered the parking lot and marked vehicles were parked nearby.
Just before 4 p.m., at 3:57 p.m., the driver of the truck got out of the truck and went into a fast food restaurant, and the officers in the marked vehicles were given the direction to arrest him, however, investigators say the driver walked out of the restaurant and officers lost sight of him just as the command was being broadcast.
A minute later, the HAWCS police helicopter saw the driver walking into another store in the strip mall before leaving and returning to the truck.
Two minutes later, the driver left the truck again and went back into the restaurant, according to the police watch dog. Officers were again told to make an arrest, with officers in marked and unmarked cars responding at 4:02 p.m. An unmarked vehicle pulled in behind the truck to block it in and a marked vehicle parked in front of the restaurant — beside the truck — with emergency lights flashing.
ASIRT said the driver wasn’t inside the store for long, adding that when he left, “something changed as he began running towards the truck.” Officers then ran toward the driver with guns drawn.
The driver reached the truck first, ASIRT said, and got into the driver’s seat and closed the door. But one officer almost immediately pulled it back open, putting him in a “precarious position should the vehicle be put in motion.”
ASIRT said a number of witnesses reported hearing the officer shout commands like, “stop,” “freeze” and “get out of the car.” An officer can be heard yelling “police” and “don’t’ move” on a recording from an in-car digital video system.
Investigators said the driver of the truck then started to back up, catching the driver’s side door on the SUV parked beside it, bending the door back and damaging the SUV. The officer that pulled the driver’s side door open was also caught between the two vehicles and fired two shots into the cab through the open door. ASIRT said that at the same time, the second officer shot three rounds through the front windshield.
The driver was hit by four of the shots, with the fifth going through the back window and into the unmarked police Jeep parked behind it. The truck collided with the Jeep and pushed it sideways before colliding with the front of one of the marked police vehicles, ASIRT said.
Another officer, trying to block any escape route, drove the other unmarked police vehicle to the passenger side of the truck and called “shots fired, shots fired,” over the police radio at 4:02 p.m.
When the truck finally stopped, the driver — suffering from severe injuries — was pulled out. Police officers provided medical care until EMS arrived, ASIRT said. The driver was taken to hospital where he was declared dead. An autopsy determined he died of multiple gunshot wounds. It was also determined he had a “significant concentration” of methamphetamine and its metabolites as well as THC in his system.
An uninjured female passenger was also removed from the vehicle and arrested.
When officers searched the truck, they found a replica nine-millimetre pellet pistol inside a hidden sports bag, which ASIRT said police had no knowledge of as the events unfolded.
ASIRT said their probe was helped by witness testimony as well as video and audio recordings and established the following evidence:
- The man was driving a stolen vehicle that was under surveillance
- From the start, it was the intention of the involved officers to apprehend the man while he was outside the vehicle
- As police moved in, the man walked out of the restaurant and the only reasonable inference is that he must have seen the officers moving in as he suddenly began to run back to the truck, which was parked nearby
- Although it was a matter of seconds, the man made it back to the truck and got in it before he could be intercepted
- While the man was sitting in the driver’s seat, one officer ran between the two vehicles and reopened the driver’s door. This gave that officer very limited room to move and put him in a position of significant risk should the truck be put into motion
- Both officers were clearly identifiable as police. The man was directed to stop and/or not move but he ignored the commands
- The man put the truck in reverse and accelerated rapidly. This placed the one officer, now trapped in between the open driver’s door, the stolen truck and the civilian vehicle, in immediate life-threatening danger
- The operation of the stolen vehicle put anyone in the unmarked vehicle parked immediately behind the stolen truck at risk. The man had no way of knowing whether there was anyone inside the vehicle at the time and the officer operating the unmarked Jeep missed being at risk of losing his life by a matter of seconds as he exited the driver’s door immediately behind the stolen truck. Had the timing been even marginally different, he would have been struck. The man crashed into the unmarked police vehicle with enough force to physically move that vehicle. The man would also have had no way of knowing whether any pedestrians might be walking or standing in the parking lot behind that unmarked police vehicle
- The evidence is very clear that police fired only after the man had decided to use the vehicle as a weapon to flee the scene, putting officers and potentially others at risk
ASIRT said that under the Criminal Code, “a police officer is authorized to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to perform his or her lawful duties.”
“This can include force intended, or likely to cause, death or grievous bodily harm if the officer reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend themselves or someone under their protection from imminent death or grievous bodily harm,” ASIRT said.
The watchdog’s findings concluded the officers acted lawfully.
“Based on the available evidence, it is clear that the conduct of the man presented a real risk of death to the officers and others in the immediate area,” ASIRT said. “It is also clear that the way this unfolded was never the plan of the involved officers.”
ASIRT said the events “escalated so quickly” that the officers didn’t have time to explore other alternative responses and “the resort to lethal force only occurred in exigent circumstances.
“As such, there are no reasonable grounds, or even reasonable suspicion, to believe that the officers committed any Criminal Code offence(s),” ASIRT said.
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