Man, 38, killed in police shooting
The Toronto Star
December 02, 2007 4:30 AM
A 38-year-old man was shot dead in a volley of gunfire by four Halton police officers early yesterday during a confrontation in a heavily treed park in a residential Oakville neighbourhood.
It's the first time Halton officers have been involved in a fatal shooting, and the investigation has been taken over by the province's Special Investigations Unit.
The victim, whom police say is from British Columbia, was shot dead at 2:33 a.m. in Wedgewood Park, in the upscale Cairncroft Rd. area north of Lakeshore Rd.
Police and SIU investigators won't say whether the man was armed. Investigators also refused to say whether the officers were equipped with Tasers, or used them.
For people living in the quiet residential area the first signs of trouble came with what sounded like firecrackers exploding in the early morning darkness.
The man, who police say had family ties to Oakville, was shot several times after getting out of a late-model four-door Cadillac as he was surrounded by armed officers.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to a 911 caller, the man had been acting strangely about an hour earlier at a Tim Hortons some four kilometres away.
An investigative source said the caller thought the man had a rifle.
The SIU is now piecing together the events leading up to the tragedy in southeast Oakville.
SIU spokesperson Rose Bliss said four of six officers initially at the scene fired their weapons. They are now considered subject officers in the investigation, which is likely to continue for several weeks.
Another 12 officers have been designated witness officers and they are compelled to speak with investigators and provide their notes, if asked, Bliss said.
SIU investigators will determine whether the four officers who fired shots were justified in using deadly force.
Bliss said officials have spoken to the deceased man's mother but are trying to locate other family members. It's believed he once lived in Oakville but has been living on the West Coast.
Investigators haven't revealed why or how long the man had been in Ontario or whether he had been in contact with any family members. "It's far too early in the investigation," Bliss said.
Until next of kin are contacted, the man's identity isn't being released.
Investigators also won't reveal how many bullets struck the man.
"We need to establish what exactly the conversation was between the man and the officers, the interaction and the timeline," Bliss said.
She confirmed the confrontation wasn't lengthy. "It happened very quickly," Bliss said.
Police responding to the 911 call arrived at the Tim Hortons but Bliss said the man was already gone by then, Bliss said, adding "The caller said he was acting strange and erratic, and that he was possibly armed."
Witnesses at the coffee shop said the man had threatened to harm himself and others, a source said.
Witnesses provided police with licence plate information which was broadcast across police radios, Bliss added.
Two officers spotted him in the area of Cairncroft and Lakeshore Rds. – less than a kilometre from Wedgewood Park – and followed the vehicle, Bliss said.
Additional officers soon arrived and the driver drove into the park where his vehicle was boxed in by several police cruisers.
Residents near the scene said they were awakened by sounds of the rapid-fire shots.
"It sounded like five shots all in a row," said a young woman. "Bang. Bang. Bang, Bang, Bang."
Another resident thought a structure had collapsed.
A different person said the shots sounded like firecrackers exploding.
One woman said she and her husband were awakened by a commotion in the forest across the street from her home. She saw police and a pickup truck parked on the crest of a hill on a path that leads into the trees.
Then she heard the shots.
"It was so fast, it was like boom, boom, boom," she said. "It's weird."
The woman, who asked not to be named, said she usually takes her 2-and 3-year-old boys for walks in that forest.
She said her family moved to the neighbourhood because it was "a safe environment."
"It's like Pleasantville. There's been a shooting in Pleasantville."
By daybreak, police had cordoned off all of the entrances to the park.
At the scene a blue tarp covered a body lying near the white vehicle.
Bliss confirmed the vehicle had B.C. plates.
Investigators were expected to be collecting evidence at the scene throughout the night.
An autopsy is to be conducted today.
The SIU investigates incidents between police and civilians, which have resulted in death or serious injury.