Man who killed Ontario police officer had arsenal of guns and bombs, SIU probe finds

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The 60-year-old man who killed an officer and died in a shootout last fall on Manitoulin Island had an arsenal of guns and homemade bombs, Ontario's police watchdog found.

The Special Investigations Unit cleared police of any wrongdoing in the shootout on Nov. 19, 2020, that left Const. Marc Hovingh and Gary Brohman dead.

The unit found that they died of injuries from shooting each other inside Brohman's trailer in Gore Bay, Ont.

Hovingh had been called out to the woods following a complaint of a man squatting on another person's property, according to the SIU report released Friday.

The officer had been out to the property the day before to investigate a recently bulldozed path and a trailer on a landowner's property, but no one was around.

Later that day, the owner returned to find Brohman, who falsely claimed a legal right to the land, the report said. The property owner had told Brohman to be off his land the next day.

Hovingh returned with another officer and the landowner around 10 a.m. to ensure Brohman would be leaving.

He told the officers he had a claim to the land.

Brohman also said he had nowhere to go.

"Mr. Brohman opened the door of his trailer to the officers and, told he had to vacate the land, again claimed that he had a legal right to be there," the SIU report said.

The landowner offered to help Brohman get his trailer, which was stuck in mud, off the land by the next day.

Brohman agreed.

Hovingh became suspicious after noticing about 20 propane tanks on the property, the SIU said.

Hovingh then found a clearing in the forest being used for marijuana plants. He and another officer estimated there was about $100,000 worth of marijuana.

The landowner wanted Brohman off the property immediately and police agreed, the SIU said.

Around 11 a.m., Hovingh knocked on the door of Brohman's trailer, but the man refused to leave. The officer than grabbed a shovel from Brohman's truck and tried to pry the door open. When that didn't work, the landowner gave the officers an axe, which was used to break open the door, the SIU said.

The second officer, who is not named in the report, entered the trailer with his stun gun drawn.

"Go away, I'm not going through this again," Brohman said to the officer.

With no luck, that officer left the trailer and Hovingh entered as Brohman turned toward the bedroom.

"When he turned around again, he was holding a shotgun pointed in Const. Hovingh’s direction," the SIU said.

"Mr. Brohman fired three shots from his shotgun. Const. Hovingh quickly returned fire, discharging seven rapid rounds from his 9mm semi-automatic pistol."

The second officer, the landowner and his son quickly retreated.

"Shots fired, shots fired, I need assistance now!" the second officer said in a call for backup.

The landowner told his son to go home and get more guns. He returned and the three aimed their guns on the trailer in case Brohman left, the SIU said.

Shortly thereafter UCCM Anishnaabe Police officers arrived and all waited for OPP tactical officers, who arrived about 90 minutes later, around 12:30 p.m.

The officers entered the trailer and began life-saving measures with paramedics on both Hovingh and Brohman, the SIU said.

Hovingh and Brohman were both pronounced dead in hospital.

Hovingh died after being shot twice in his left thigh at close range. Brohman died from gunshot wounds to his head.

"Mr. Brohman must have known that his arrest was unavoidable and he acted as if he had nothing left to lose," the SIU said.

"On this record, it is entirely conceivable that Const. Hovingh’s actions served to deter what could well have been a continuing risk to the lives and limbs of others around him."

A witness warned police that afternoon the area was booby-trapped with pipe bombs and propane tank bombs.

The SIU did not find fault with the other officers who did not go in to the trailer until the tactical team arrived.

"As far as they knew, (Brohman) could easily have been lying in wait in the trailer still capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm or death," the SIU said.

"In this regard, it is telling to note that post-incident forensic analysis of the scene led to the discovery of dozens of improvised explosives and incendiary materials on the property, and numerous firearms inside the trailer."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2021.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press