The security guard at the centre of the double-fatal shooting at a Toronto McDonald’s is assisting police in their investigation, but faces intense scrutiny and possible criminal charges surrounding the use of his firearm.
The guard, whose name has not been released, stopped for food at the east end McDonald’s on Danforth Avenue near Coxwell Avenue at about 3 a.m. on Sunday when an altercation broke out and two men were fatally wounded. The guard suffered a gunshot injury to his hand.
Security expert Chris Menary, author of The Canadian Security Professionals Guide, said police will examine every aspect of the shooting, including whether the guard was following the strict rules that govern the use of firearms by licensed security workers.
“Unless he was dropping cash there, he is going to have a real hard sell as to why he pulled his firearm unless the men tried to get his firearm or pulled a knife on him, because Ontario has strict rules for storage and use,” Menary said in an interview with Yahoo Canada News.
Carry firearms only while on duty
The head of a company that provides full range security protection services in Ontario and Québec also told Yahoo Canada News that the rules are very clear.
Armed guards are only allowed to carry firearms in the line of duty, explained Gary Kleiman, CEO of ValGuard Security Inc., in an email Monday. If they’re taking a break during their work day, however, he or she isn’t expected to store the firearm in a secure location while on break.
Earlier in the day, Toronto Police released the identities of the men killed in the shooting: Ryan Hind 39, and Donny Ouimette, 25.
The security guard was also wounded, but was released from hospital, his lawyer told The Canadian Press over the weekend.
The security guard’s lawyer Craig Penney said the gun was “lawfully possessed.”
On Tuesday, the The Globe and Mail reported the security guard worked for Intercon Security, a company recently acquired by Montreal-based private security firm GardaWorld.
At the time of publication, Penney, Toronto police and McDonald’s Canada did not respond to request for comment.
On Saturday, Toronto Police Det.-Sgt. Terry Browne said officers are continuing to study the evidence and the restaurant’s security video of the incident.
“There’s no doubt that the security guard is the involved party for the discharging of the firearm, we’re really trying to put the pieces together on how this all played out,” Browne told a news conference.
He also said the guard is cooperating with the investigation.
When a security guard can — and can’t — use a gun
In the United States, it’s much easier for guards to carry firearms as part of their duty, but in Canada, it’s a far different story, say experts.
Kleiman said the rules are clear according to the Ontario use of force model, which is an essential part of the training necessary to be licensed as an armed guard or armed courier in Ontario. Security guards are expected to consider firearms as a last resort against a threat to their lives, and even then, only to neutralize the attacker.
"Firearms cannot be used for any other reason, they cannot be used to protect liabilities (cash, jewelry etc.), they cannot be used for retaliation or for apprehension etc," Kleiman said.
While firearms can only be used to defend human life if there is a perceived threat, the laws dictate that firearms are only to be carried by security guards overseeing the transportation of precious goods.
“You can’t carry a firearm for guarding people,” Menary said. “It has to be for precious metals, diamonds and jewelry, cash and assets, things that are moved back and forth. The legislation is straight forward.”
Menary says armed security guards in Canada work for agencies that have to be licensed federally and provincially. Federally, the RCMP look after licensing program and guards must have a PAL licence (Possession Acquisition Licence) allowing an individual to carry a gun.
Guards undergo background checks, then get training for firearms, after which they can be hired as armed guards. Once they’re active, they’re monitored by the chief firearms officer of OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) and expected to follow strict rules about the use of those firearms.
“The bottom line is the guards are well trained and go through a lot of red tape to be licenced,” he said, adding agencies have their own strict policies and procedures for the carrying and use of firearms.
Menary said police in Toronto have a lot of information to sift through in this case.
“For example, the company could hire security, but the only armed guard detail they would have is for picking up cash. The police have to find out if the armed guard was working in the course of his or her own duties and what was the purpose of them being in McDonald’s. What was the threat they saw? Was it fearing for their lives?”
Situation continues to be investigated
Shootings involving police in Ontario come under the mandate of the Special Investigations Unit, the independent civilian agency with the power to both investigate and charge police officers with a criminal offence.
Armed security guards in Ontario can be investigated by local police, the chief investigator of firearms for the OPP, and also by RCMP, Menary said. Police treat security guards as any other civilian, he said.
“For him to pull the firearm, he has to articulate what he saw, what situation occurred, was your life threatened?
With an armed guard at a property like a jewelry store or guarding cash, the chances are greater that a guard will encounter a threat.
“But at a McDonald’s, there are so many people in there, did someone come in with a firearm, was he loading up a bank machine? Police have to figure all that out and then it plays out to see what he or she saw as a threat. Why did you have to shoot? It’s not clear cut like he was at a jewelry store or ATM.”
During the coming days and weeks, investigators will be looking at whether the guard in this shooting violated the Criminal Code of Canada, or if he really did see a threat to life in the situation. Police and investigators will also have to determine if the guard met licensing requirements and if he followed the guard agency’s policies and procedures.
Where police have the option of using force to shut down a threat, security guards can only use a weapon to protect life and property.
“It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback and it’s not always clear on the video as you don’t have all the soundbites of what was happening,” said Menary.
“You can’t just walk around with a gun…If he’s charged it’s because he didn’t fit in the rules. But if there are no charges, police will definitely have to explain to the public why.”