'It was utter chaos': Witnesses describe moments before police shot man

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A man shot by police in downtown Winnipeg was carrying a homemade "spear" and was told many times to drop the weapon, witnesses say.

"It was very loud in here. It was out of control; a lot of swearing going on with this individual," said Robert Lecker, an optometrist whose office is just off the skywalk that crosses Garry Street near Graham Avenue.

"Basically, he was completely undone. There was no rationale."

The 25-year-old man was shot at least two times inside the optometrist office just after the noon hour on Monday, witnesses said.

He was taken to hospital in unstable condition and has since improved to stable, said police, who have not released any other information about the incident other than to say they expect charges to be laid when he is released from hospital.

Lecker's assistant, Nicelyn Romero, said the man was yelling at police outside of the office while holding a cellphone in his left hand and a metal rod in the right.

"Police kept telling him, 'Drop your weapon, drop your weapon,' but he ignored them," she said.

The man then kicked open the door to Lecker's office, prompting Romero to jump back from the front counter.

"I didn't know what he was going to do next," she said.

Lecker estimated the metal rod to be more than a metre long, with the blade from scissors taped to the end.

"It was a spear, is the best way to describe it," he said.

Immediately after the man barged into the office, the police followed, continuing their commands to drop the weapon "or else we're going to shoot you," Romero said, adding "he didn't listen. He [was] swearing and screaming."

Lecker came out of a room to see what was happening, then backed up again when he saw the police pointing guns and the man waving the rod.

"It was utter chaos," he said. "I'm just an optometrist. I'm not going into a war zone."

Lecker said he had no idea what the man was yelling.

"It wasn't legible, just commotion," he said.

"You could hear police were saying 'Drop your knife,' but he was swearing. I'm not going to say the words but a lot of F-words were going on.

"And within a very short period of time, they shot him."

The man fell to the floor near the chairs in the waiting room but continued to be belligerent, swearing and struggling, Romero said.

Lecker applauded the police response, saying they gave plenty of warning and did what they needed to do.

"We were in jeopardy," he said, adding there were also two patients in the office. "I mean, something was going down.

"You don't think you're going to wake up, go to work and this happen. It wasn't the best day."