Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Investigation of 2017 in-custody death concluded

Government of Alberta - On February 12, 2017 the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a 20-year-old man.
ASIRT was directed to investigate the death because it occurred in circumstances that met the general definition of an in-custody death, as it occurred during contact with police and while the residence was contained by police.

At approximately 9:50 p.m. on Feb. 11, 2017, Beaverlodge RCMP received a complaint about a suspicious man at a rural property north of town. A neighbour, who had been watching the property for the homeowner, had seen a vehicle parked at the residence for an extended time and saw lights in the basement. When contacted, the homeowner confirmed that no one had permission to be in the residence. He gave the RCMP permission to enter the home. It was believed that the person in the residence was known to the homeowner and Beaverlodge RCMP. The man had a significant criminal history, had outstanding warrants, and could be unpredictable.

Shortly after the RCMP arrived at the property, three officers entered the residence and identified themselves as police. The man, seated on a couch, jumped up with a shotgun in his hand. Officers repeatedly instructed him to drop the shotgun as they slowly backed out of the residence and repositioned. The man followed them to the door, still armed with the shotgun.

Officers made additional commands to drop the weapon, but the man retreated back into the residence. As officers outside were moving to safer positions, they heard a single gunshot from inside the residence. After determining it was safe to enter the home, officers went in and found the man, deceased, on a landing halfway down the basement stairs. He had a visible head wound and the shotgun was recovered propped between his legs in a position consistent with suicide.

An autopsy determined the man died as a result of a self-inflicted shotgun wound. Death would have been immediate. Toxicology results confirmed the use of cannabis and cocaine prior to his death.

In this case, it is clear that man died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The officers on scene were acting in the lawful execution of their duties, had permission to enter the residence and when the man escalated the situation, they tried to de-escalate by backing out of the residence and tactically repositioning until additional support could attend.

While the outcome is tragic, ASIRT executive director Susan D. Hughson, QC reviewed the investigation and evidence and has determined there are no reasonable grounds, nor reasonable suspicion, to believe that any of the officers on scene committed an offence.

ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently and objectively investigate incidents involving police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.

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