Man shot by Toronto police says he didn't threaten anyone, but was carrying knife

·4 min read
Devin Fowlin, right, spoke with reporters Wednesday after he was shot by Toronto police in February. (Martin Trainor/CBC - image credit)
Devin Fowlin, right, spoke with reporters Wednesday after he was shot by Toronto police in February. (Martin Trainor/CBC - image credit)

A man who was shot multiple times by police in a northwest Toronto park in February spoke out about the incident for the first time Wednesday, alleging police did not try to de-escalate the situation before firing at him.

Devon Fowlin was flanked by family members and his lawyer, Knia Singh, at a news conference, where the group called for the release of body camera footage of the incident.

"Generally in circumstances like this, people don't live to tell their story. Mr. Fowlin was in life-threatening condition. Fortunately he has survived," Singh said.

Singh said the provincial Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has viewed police footage of the incident, and now the family wants that video released.

"I think it's extremely important that the public have access to that footage," Singh said.

Fowlin was shot on the morning of Feb. 27 in a park in the area of Black Creek Drive and Trethewey Drive. He said he was in the park at the time walking his dog.

The SIU, which investigates the conduct of law enforcement officials where death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person has occurred, continues to probe the incident. Toronto police declined to comment Wednesday, citing the SIU investigation.

"Through interviews and the examination of all the evidence collected, SIU investigators will gain a better understanding of what transpired that day between the man and police," SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon said in an emailed statement.

Victim says he was holding knife

In a news release from the day of the shooting, the SIU said a man in the area was walking his dog while brandishing a knife, when he had some sort of "interaction" with another man. No other details were offered.

Fowlin said he was walking his dog that morning with a knife in his hand, calling it "the knife I cook and live with inside of my vehicle." He was experiencing homelessness at the time, his lawyer said.

"I also do pray, you know, with it, so I was doing a prayer that very same morning," Fowlin said, adding that no one else was in the park around him.

Paul Smith/CBC
Paul Smith/CBC

Fowlin told reporters he raised his arm while holding the knife a few times when in the area, and that the third time he did so, he saw a Honda Civic being driven by a police officer pull into the park's parking lot.

As the officer approached him, Fowlin said he tried to walk away to get his dog inside of his own vehicle.

It was then that two police SUVs pulled into the parking lot, blocked off his vehicle, and five officers got out and lined up side by side, he said.

Singh said officers asked his client to show his hands and show the knife.

"Mr. Fowlin complied with that direction," he said.

Two officers discharged their Tasers, the previous SIU news release said, and another officer shot the man.

Fowlin said the officers pointed their guns at him "right away."

"They shouted one command, and immediately I felt a shot, and right after I just heard multiple shots going off," Fowlin said. Singh said Fowlin was shot in the abdomen, chest and wrist.

Victim says he was 'not threatening anybody'

Fowlin said he dropped the knife and ran, before he fell in the intersection of Black Creek and Trethewey Drive.

"That situation just escalated out in seconds," he said.

Singh said though his client did have a knife, he was "not threatening anybody."

Martin Trainor/CBC
Martin Trainor/CBC

Fowlin was later rushed to hospital with serious injuries. He was discharged within a week, he said, and has not been charged with any crime.

The SIU says four investigators and two forensic investigators have been assigned to the case.

Ten "witness officials" who would have seen or heard what happened in some capacity have been designated, Hudon said, alongside one "subject official," alleged to have fired a weapon. A police-issued firearm was seized at the scene, she said.

The SIU is asking anyone who has information about the investigation to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529, or via its website.