Friday, August 12, 2011

Officer Shoots Man and Phantom Alert Saves Drivers Everyday

The Canadian Press

CALGARY — A police chief is backing an officer who shot and killed a man armed with a screwdriver, saying the public wouldn't want to see a member of the force turn and run "like a scared rabbit."

The man, believed to be in his late 30s, was being chased by the officer on foot in a northeast Calgary neighbourhood early Thursday when he was shot in a backyard.

The 10-year veteran and member of the tactical team fired more than once when the man threatened him and then "aggressively" approached with a screwdriver in his hand, said police Chief Rick Hanson.

"Screwdrivers will kill you just as quickly as a knife," he said at a news conference.

"It's pitch dark. He's between two houses. He doesn't know where the individual went. The suspect made a conscious decision to confront the officer in a way that clearly articulated a decision to do the officer harm.

"I can't think of anybody in this city who would say the police officer should have turned on his tail and ran like a scared rabbit. The reality is these are dangerous people who commit mayhem and havoc in this city and their intention is to do harm."

Hanson said police became aware of two stolen trucks that were being driven erratically in north Calgary. There were reports they were speeding the wrong way on a major road.

There was no pursuit, but a police helicopter kept the trucks under surveillance until a spike belt was laid down. It managed to stop one of the vehicles. Two people jumped into the other truck and fled.

Hanson said two passengers, a male and female, were dropped off and ran in separate directions. The truck was eventually corralled by police vehicles and officers removed the driver with the help of a police dog and a weapon that fires rubber discs.

The backyard shooting happened while officers were searching for the couple. The woman was arrested without incident, but the policeman involved in the shooting had to make a split-second decision when it came to the male, the chief said.

Hanson said the motive behind the joyride is unclear, but he noted the size of the trucks -- Ford F-250s and F-350s.

"Those vehicles are generally stolen because they are used as weapons," Hanson said. "They are used to cause destruction. They're very difficult for police vehicles or officers to disable."

The shooting is under investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which reviews encounters involving police that result in serious injury or death.

Hanson said, as far as he is concerned, the officer acted in a responsible manner.

"I'm proud that we have officers that are out on the road arresting bad guys at 1 o'clock in the morning, especially when the bad guys are people who are putting other innocent people at risk," he said.

"So my job is to say I've reviewed the circumstances leading up to the shooting. I'm satisfied that the officer acted appropriately. I believe that the actions of the officers were what any reasonable person would expect."

The head of the Calgary Police Association said he fully supports the member as well.

"I've spoken with the officer. He's confident that he relied upon his experience and training to respond to this situation," said John Dooks.

"It's always regretful that an officer is forced into this situation where he has to use lethal force, but ... (he) knows in this situation he had no choice."

It was the second fatal police-involved shooting in about two months in Calgary.

In June, an armed man confronted officers who had gone to a home where a woman had called police for help.

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