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SIU clears 5 officers involved in fatal Burlington shootout

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Jun 7th, 2019

Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared five officers involved in a fatal shooting at a Burlington gas station, saying it was fair for the cops to think their lives were in danger.

The Special Investigations Unit spent months investigating the early-morning shootout that left a suspect dead and sent two Halton Regional Police officers to hospital with gunshot wounds last September.

“The police officers believed shooting the (suspect) was necessary to protect themselves from grievous bodily harm and that this belief was objectively reasonable,” SIU Interim Director Joseph Martino said in his report Thursday.

The incident began when a 22-year-old man fled from a two-vehicle collision he’d been involved in, taking a taxi to a nearby Esso gas station and running into the attached convenience store, he said.

By the time officers caught up with him, Martino said, the man had locked himself in the bathroom.

“The (man) became increasingly agitated while the officers tried to convince him to come out,” Martino wrote. “He swore at them and told (an officer) ‘I will go to heaven before I ever come out to police.”’

Eventually, the officers were able to force the washroom door open with a pry bar and sledge hammer, only to find the man pointing a gun at them.

“The (suspect) shot at the officers multiple times through the washroom wall and open door,” Martino wrote, noting that one of the officers was shot twice in the thigh and another’s leg and thumb were injured.

He said the officers immediately ran to the gas station’s door.

“Regrettably, the officers were unable to exit because the front door had been locked and could only be unlocked using a button accessible by the attendant, who had taken cover underneath a counter,” Martino said.

“The officers tried unsuccessfully to open the door for a few seconds and then the majority drew their firearms and pointed them in the direction of the washroom.”

Martino said that the man then ran out of the bathroom and along the back of the convenience store, gun still in hand. As he did so, he reportedly shouted “I’m out! I’m out!”

As many as five of the officers opened fire on the man, and he fell to the ground and died. He had six bullet wounds on his body, and the shot that killed him perforated his heart and a lung. His gun, which was out of bullets, was found lying beside his body.

Martino said the officers’ response to the man was “proportionate, reasonably necessary and justifiable under law.”

“The (suspect) was the first to shoot, striking two police officers, and was armed with a handgun when he exited the washroom. He continued to pose an imminent and serious risk of grievous harm or death to the officers when the officers returned fire,” he said.

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