Downtown BIZ to increase patrols in Winnipeg skywalks in wake of shooting

Man asked to drop weapon 14 times before police shot him in downtown skywalk: IIU

Downtown Winnipeg BIZ is putting more patrols into the skywalk system to help people feel safe again, one day after a 25-year-old man was shot by police.

The BIZ, which works to improve the perception of downtown by cleaning and advocating for improvements, called Monday's shooting an isolated incident.

However, it recognizes that people will have been shaken by the incident so it will send out more goodwill patrols — officially called Downtown Watch ambassadors.

The patrols offer directions, tourist info, first aid, and assistance but also act as the "eyes and ears" for the Winnipeg Police Service, according to the BIZ website.

Monday's shooting happened just after noon in the public skywalk that crosses Garry Street at Graham Avenue, linking two buildings near the police headquarters.

The walkway is often used by police officers on their breaks or when they are walking to and from work. It was closed for many hours after the shooting but has since been reopened.

Police Chief Danny Smyth described the incident as a "confrontation" but didn't release any other details about what led to an officer firing his gun or where the man was hit.

The man was taken to hospital in unstable condition and has since improved to stable.

On Tuesday, police said they expect charges to be laid when the man is released from hospital.

The man's identity has not been made public, but several people have told CBC that he was a regular in the area and often seen at a temporary work agency located about a block away on Garry Street.

Police have said it wasn't known if the man was armed, but sources told CBC News he was holding a stick with a knife taped to it and there was a lot of shouting before the shots were fired.

Another witness told CBC the man had been acting strangely.

Downtown safe: mayor

Monday's incident happened days after two gunpoint robberies in downtown Winnipeg.

On April 22, a 22-year-old man was waiting for a bus on Vaughn Street near Portage Avenue when two other males robbed him.

One grabbed the man's personal property and the other demanded the man's money. When the man hesitated, one of the robbers pulled out a handgun and threatened the man.

On April 20, a man walking near the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street was held up at gunpoint and robbed of money.

Despite the robberies and the shooting on Monday, Mayor Brian Bowman said downtown Winnipeg is safe.

"You just have to look at the crime rates, which are moving in the right direction when you look at the last five years," he said, adding the city is committed to making sure they continue going that way.

The most recent police budget "is the largest in the history of the City of Winnipeg, so that support is there," Bowman said, lauding the "hard work" of members of the force.

"The Winnipeg Police Service certainly has my confidence and that of council. They do very important, dangerous work on behalf of all of our citizens."

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) is looking into the incident and requesting anyone with information or video footage to contact them toll-free at 1-844-667-6060.

The unit investigates all serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba.