TORONTO — Ontario's police watchdog has cleared two Toronto police officers who shot and killed a man seen walking with what appeared to be a rifle near a school earlier this year.
Officers responded on May 26 to reports of a person with a gun – the Special Investigations Unit said it was later determined that the man was carrying an air rifle.
The SIU says the 27-year-old man was walking "nonchalantly" that afternoon with what appeared to be a rifle, with the firearm sometimes concealed in his jacket and sometimes in plain view.
The watchdog says the man suffered from mental illness and had had a particularly difficult time coping with his mental health the week before.
It says police ordered the man to drop his weapon several times but he raised it and pointed it at them, after which two officers fired at the man – he died at the scene.
SIU Director Joseph Martino says there are no reasonable grounds to believe either officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the man's death.
"The complainant had in his possession a rifle that gave every appearance of being able to inflict grievous bodily harm or death if fired. He had been ordered to drop the weapon but did not do so," Martino wrote in his report on the case.
"It is evident that the officers shot the complainant in the genuine belief that they were about to be fired upon."
Martino said the shots fired by the two officers amounted to "reasonable defensive force." He noted that while the man's weapon turned out to be an air rifle, the officers would not have known that at the time.
"For all intents and purposes, the officers would have reasonably apprehended that their lives were on the line when the complainant very deliberately raised the rifle at them," he wrote.
"The complainant constituted a real and present danger to public safety, particularly given his proximity to a school that was in session, and the officers were not free to vacate the area."
The fatal police shooting happened near William G. Davis Public School.
The Toronto District School Board said four schools nearby were temporarily placed in lockdown due to the police investigation in the area.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.
The Canadian Press