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Sask. police watchdog says officer who killed man during chase acted appropriately

Saskatchewan's police oversight body says that a Prince Albert police officer who fatally shot a man during a pursuit on Jan. 16, 2023, acted reasonably given the circumstances. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC - image credit)
Saskatchewan's police oversight body says that a Prince Albert police officer who fatally shot a man during a pursuit on Jan. 16, 2023, acted reasonably given the circumstances. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC - image credit)

The police officer who shot and killed a 34-year-old man will not face criminal charges after the provincial police watchdog decided he acted appropriately given the situation.

Saskatchewan's Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) released its final report into the incident on Tuesday morning. SIRT is an independent, civilian-led unit responsible for investigating serious incidents involving on and off-duty police in Saskatchewan.

It cleared the Prince Albert Police Service officer of any wrongdoing.

According to SIRT's investigation, the officer shot a man on Jan. 16, 2023, because he believed the man had drawn a gun during a foot chase.

SIRT said investigators determined after the man's death that the gun was actually an "air powered replica." The deceased man's name has not been released.

The pursuit of the 34-year-old man began with a car chase.

Prince Albert police officers were trying to "execute a traffic stop" during the evening of Jan. 16, 2023. The report did not say why they wanted to pull over the 2000 Honda Prelude.

According to the report, the driver sped away from police and eventually parked behind a business. He then tried to call a taxi.

Passengers in the vehicle reported that the man said he was wanted by police and could not get arrested.

Meanwhile, the police involved in the car chase called in for backup. One officer that was driving around saw two people and approached them because they were in an area where "all of the businesses were closed."

The driver provided his name and said they were waiting for a taxi.

The officer said he recognized the driver as being a person of interest in a recent homicide investigation and having outstanding warrants, so the officer informed the man he was under arrest. The 34-year-old man tried to run away, the report says.

SIRT said the officer called for backup, then chased the man into a parking lot that was enclosed by fencing on several sides.

The officer told SIRT that he reached for his taser after seeing the man reach into his pockets, but then saw the man pull out what looked like a pistol and pulled his police gun out in response.

The man reportedly raised the apparent pistol toward the cop. The officer then shot the man once in the chest, killing him.

SIRT says the officer had "no reasonable way" to determine whether the gun was real or not, and that the response to a perceived lethal threat was both proportionate and necessary.  It's not clear if the officer asked the man to drop the weapon.

The investigation of the incident included an analysis of a camera that was pointed at the area where the shooting happened, but SIRT says it was motion activated and did not trigger. However, it was activated 90 seconds later when a Prince Albert Police vehicle arrived to the area.

The officer is the only eyewitness to the shooting, but SIRT says the officer's account of what happened was reliable and consistent.

It also notes that police officers are allowed to use as much force as necessary "in the lawful execution of their duties," according to the Criminal Code.

This includes taking action intended or likely to kill, if they believe such force is necessary to defend themselves from death or grievous bodily harm.

SIRT found there were no grounds to believe that the officer committed any Criminal Code offence during the course of this incident.