SIRT rules PA police officer used ‘proportionate and necessary’ force in January 2023 shooting

Herald file photo

There are no grounds to believe a Prince Albert police officer committed an offence when shooting and killing a 34-year-old man who was a person of interest in a murder investigation, the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) ruled in a report dated Feb. 26.

The SIRT released Civilian Executive Director Greg Gudelot’s report on the matter Tuesday afternoon. Gudelot wrote that the established facts show the force applied by the officer “falls within the range that is protected by law” and provides no grounds to believe the officer committed a Criminal Code offence.

Gudelot wrote that the 34-year-old man produced an air-powered pistol while fleeing from police, and the officer had “no reasonable way” to determine the authenticity of the firearm at that time.

“Given the striking visual similarity of the pistol to an actual handgun and the circumstances in which it was presented, the Subject Officer was reasonable in perceiving the item to be an actual firearm, and in believing that it was capable of causing him death or grievous harm” Gudelot wrote. “Both subjectively and objectively, the threat, as perceived by the Subject Officer, was immediate and serious.”

Gudelot added that the officer’s response was “both proportionate and necessary.”

At the time of the incident, the officer was in full duty uniform, operating a fully-marked PAPS vehicle.

The incident began at around 10:20 p.m. on Jan. 16, 2023 when a PAPS K9 unit attempted a traffic stop on a 2000 Honda Prelude on Marquis Dr. in Prince Albert. The driver of the vehicle failed to stop for police, and attempted to evade police by turning into a gas station, accelerating through the lot, and returning to Marquis Dr. in the oncoming lane before crossing the raised meridian.

After stopping in a parking area along South Industrial Drive, the 34-year-old man and a female acquaintance left the vehicle and phoned a taxi. A second woman remained inside the vehicle.

A responding officer saw the man and woman standing outside a business on the 400 block of South Industrial Dr. and stopped to ask what they were doing. The man said they were waiting for a cab, and provided his name to officers when asked. The officer then searched the PAPS database and determined the man was the subject of a homicide investigation, and also had unrelated outstanding warrants.

The officer informed the man he was under arrest, but the man started walking away. Following a brief physical struggle with the officer, the man ran eastbound on South Industrial Dr. The officer radioed in at 10:39 p.m. that he was in a foot pursuit.

The officer pursued the man down South Industrial Dr. until the man turned right into a side parking area enclosed by fences on all sides. The officer observed the man reaching into his pockets during a foot pursuit, so the officer pulled out a Conducted Energy Weapon. However, when the officer observed a pistol in the man’s hands, he holstered the CEW and drew his pistol instead.

Gudelot writes that the man raised the pistol towards the officer, after which the officer fired a single round, striking the man in the torso, causing him to fall down.

The officer immediately notified PAPS dispatch that a shot had been fired and an ambulance was required. Other PAPS units arrived on scene roughly 90 seconds after the incident and provided first aid until EMS arrived five minutes later.

EMS provided care and transported the man to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.