Fatal shooting by officers in St. Catharines now headed for coroner’s inquest


Published February 13, 2023 at 4:48 pm

Despite being cleared by the Special Investigations Unit months ago, the 2019 New Year’s Eve confrontation between a St. Catharines resident armed with a knife and two Niagara Police officers that resulted in his death will now be the subject of a Hamilton coroner’s office inquest.

On Dec. 31, 2019, police responded to a call in the Rykert St and Edith St area of a man armed with a weapon.

The incident saw the death of 56-year-old Fred Penner, who succumbed to his injuries in hospital in early 2020 after facing as many as nine shots from the two officers.

In a release today (Feb. 13), Hamilton coroner Dr. Karen Schiff, who represents the province’s west region, said an inquest into the incident would start March 20 at 10 am and would run three weeks with up to 20 witnesses.

Since it involved police activity resulting in death, the entire matter already landed in the SIU where director Joseph Martino decided the officers had little choice except to fire when a “mentally distressed” Penner wouldn’t drop a serrated kitchen knife at his home.

Martino ruled that the officers had to act quickly and instinctively when Penner took a “few quick steps” toward them, suggesting there was “little doubt that (Penner) was not about to surrender peacefully.”

To that end, Martino said there was “no reasonable grounds to believe that either officer committed a criminal offence.”

The issue of using tazers rather than firearms also came up during the SIU inquiry but it was suggested that Penner’s heavy winter coat would buffer the effectiveness of the electric jolts.

However, Penner’s family has been very vocal over what they say was a lack of action of the officers’ side in aiding him after he’d been shot.

In her announcement today, Schiff says the inquest will include a jury and “examine the circumstances surrounding Mr. Penner’s death”

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