Lethal shooting by Edmonton police in 2018 was justified, watchdog finds

Police survey the scene at the Urban Village on Whyte condo complex on Dec. 26, 2018, after a fatal officer-involved shooting.  (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)
Police survey the scene at the Urban Village on Whyte condo complex on Dec. 26, 2018, after a fatal officer-involved shooting. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)

Alberta's police oversight agency has determined Edmonton police officers acted reasonably when they shot and killed a man on Boxing Day four years ago.

Multiple officers shot Buck Evans, 34, on the afternoon of Dec. 26, 2018.

After the shooting, police told the media an "incident" occurred between a man who was wanted and believed to be armed and responding officers, who discharged their service weapons and struck him.

Evans was treated by EMS and taken to hospital, where he was declared dead.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an independent agency that examines police incidents that result in serious injury or death, investigated the shooting.

ASIRT determined the officers' use of force was reasonable because Evans had discharged a firearm.

"The subject officers were in a dynamic situation where lives were in danger, and they responded with lethal force," ASIRT executive director Michael Ewenson said in a decision released Thursday.

Shooting was in condo parking lot

ASIRT interviewed witnesses and examined the scene, video footage and officers' notes.

Police had been using cellphone data to track Evans's movements.

Evans had five outstanding warrants and police had received information that he had planned to shoot at them if they tried to arrest him. EPS planned to make an arrest once he got out of a red Chevrolet Avalanche pickup.

Evans and two other people were inside the truck, which was in the parking lot of the Urban Village on Whyte condo complex in the King Edward Park neighbourhood.

Nathan Gross/CBC
Nathan Gross/CBC

One of the witnessing officers told ASIRT he had mistakenly driven his marked police vehicle toward the front of the truck because of a misinterpretation of its location.

The officer said the people in the Avalanche had noticed his vehicle and he "felt committed to initiating the traffic stop," according to the report.

Three other police vehicles then approached. Five uniformed officers stepped out and shouted at the truck's occupants to turn off the vehicle and make their hands visible.

ASIRT's report said Evans did not comply and police officers observed him doing something near his feet.

The other people in the truck — a male driver and female passenger — followed instructions from police, but Evans remained inside the vehicle, moving from one side of the back seat to the other.

One of the officers discharged a baton from a less-lethal projectile device and the baton struck Evans.

Multiple officers then saw Evans reach toward the truck floor, and about eight seconds after the less-lethal device was fired, a firearm was discharged from where Evans was inside the vehicle.

Diane Delorme
Diane Delorme

Four of the six officers who fired their guns saw Evans holding a firearm.

Within less than a second, the officer who had discharged his less-lethal device discharged a second baton round. In that same second, other officers started firing their guns at Evans.

"All subject officers perceived the shot from the Chevrolet Avalanche to mean that their lives or the lives of their fellow officers were at risk," the ASIRT decision says.

Evans slumped forward in his seat. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A medical examiner found the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.

ASIRT said he had been armed with an illegal semi-automatic rifle loaded with 30 cartridges.

Conflicting witness accounts

According to ASIRT, the truck's driver did not know Evans, who was paying him to drive to a casino.

The woman, who was Evans's girlfriend, said she knew he had a firearm and told him to listen to police before she left the truck.

The woman said she heard gunshots and an officer in green laughing and saying, "Shoot him again."

She also said that before police shot Evans, they had not told him to get out of the vehicle.

After the shooting, Melissa Dumais told CBC Edmonton she watched her boyfriend's killing and believed police had used excessive force.

"I just don't see how it's fair," she said at the time.

She said she wanted people to know that Evans "wasn't a monster" and had "gone through a lot" but had still been a good person.

Another witness said he heard police yelling at Evans to get out of the vehicle after the other occupants left. ASIRT determined this witness was more believable because he was not in a romantic relationship with Evans.

37 shots in 11 seconds

Five bullets from the shooting damaged nearby residences, with one hitting the exterior wall of a child's bedroom. One of the bullets came from Evans's rifle and the others came from EPS firearms.

A forensic expert told ASIRT the semi-automatic rifle had not been susceptible to accidental discharge.

Based on the number of marks on the truck and expended cartridges nearby, ASIRT said police officers shot their firearms approximately 37 times within 11 seconds.

"While this is a large number, it must be viewed with regard to the number of officers, the elapsed time and the threat posed," the decision said.

Section 25 of the Criminal Code allows police officers to use "as much force as is necessary" to enforce the law.

ASIRT determined officers used force proportionately and that there was no reasonable alternative response.

The decision said Evans firing a gun posed a serious and immediate threat and that retreating would have exposed the public to greater risks.