Hamilton police officer cleared after shooting at a wanted man


Published January 6, 2023 at 4:57 pm

No charges will be filed against a police officer who shot at a man during an arrest in downtown Hamilton last summer.

In a report posted on Friday (Jan. 6), the director of the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Joseph Martino, stated he has found “no reasonable grounds” to believe that a Hamilton Police (HPS) officer committed a criminal offence during a pursuit. The 44-year-old man, who was carrying a Glock pistol and threatened to turn the gun on himself, was not struck by a bullet and did not suffer any serious injuries.

Around 12 a.m. on Sept. 8, a different HPS officer spotted the man near the Canadian Tire gas bar at Main St. E. and Victoria Ave. S., and per the SIU findings, “recognized him as being wanted in relation to a series of firearm-related offences. A chase ensued along nearby streets, with the complainant taking the Glock out of his waistband and saying he would shoot himself.”

Eventually, the chase escalated into what the SIU described as a “standoff” in a municipal parking lot northeast of the King Street East and East Avenue North intersection. Around 10 officers were on scene while the complainant was moving the Glock “from inside his mouth to the side of his head, and refus(ing) all entreaties that he drop the weapon.”

After two minutes of negotiations to try to get the man to drop the gun, one officer fired a Taser, and another fired a shot from his gun that missed the mark and struck the wooden fence behind the man who was being arrested. The complainant was then “immobilized” by “an additional volley” of Taser blasts (referred to in the report as a CEW, for conducted energy weapon, rather than by the brand name).

Martino said that given that the complainant was wanted on firearm offences, and had a gun, the officer used reasonable force when he shot toward the man.

“The (subject officer’s) evidence is that he fired his weapon to protect himself from an imminent attack by the Complainant. I accept that the officer’s apprehensions were honestly and reasonably held at the time. There is little doubt that the Complainant was a real and present threat to the safety of the officers around him. Though he had indicated an intention to only harm himself, and appears not to have explicitly pointed the gun at any of the officers, the situation was fraught with danger and very dynamic, particularly with respect to the movement of the Complainant’s gun. In the circumstances, one can appreciate how an officer might come to believe — as the (subject officer) did — that the Complainant’s gun was being pointed in their direction, whether or not that was the Complainant’s intention.”

Martino added that the fact the complaint was subdued by Taser blasts is not proof that firing a gun, a more lethal weapon, was excessive.

“If, as I am satisfied, the (subject officer) honestly and reasonably believed the Complainant was about to fire a gun in his direction, it is difficult to see what else (he) could have done to save himself from grievous bodily harm or death,” the SIU director said. “The officer might have resorted to his (conducted energy weapon), as other officers did, but that weapon did not bring with it the immediate stopping power of a firearm – as was illustrated in the instant case when the initial CEW deployment appears not to have incapacitated the Complainant. As it turns out, subsequent (CEW) discharges did incapacitate the Complainant while the (subject officer’s) shooting was off target and ineffective. Be that as it may, that outcome was more a matter of happenstance than a reflection of unreasonableness.”

The officer who was the subject of the complaint was interviewed by the SIU on Tuesday (Jan. 3), but exercised his legal right not to submit his case notes. Eight other witness officials were interviewed, including the officer who began the pursuit. Two other officers turned over their notes while declining to be interviewed.

The SIU investigates incidents involving an law enforcement official where there has been death, serious injury, the discharge of a firearm at a person or an allegation of sexual assault. The Hamilton Police told the SIU that a shot had been fired at 1:38 a.m. on Sept. 8, about 90 minutes after the confrontation.

The full report, which contains graphic content that can shock, offend and upset, is available at siu.on.ca.

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