Norfolk County man shot by police remembered as renowned gunsmith

·2 min read

The man fatally shot by police near Port Dover on Wednesday was a renowned gunsmith, according to friends of Rodger Kotanko, a 70-year-old Norfolk County man who died after Toronto police officers came to his property on Port Ryerse Road to search for weapons.

The Special Investigations Unit, a civilian agency that investigates police shootings, has not released the man’s name at the family’s request.

But news of Kotanko’s death reverberated through the firearms community, said Dan Nagy, who owns a gun store in Simcoe and counted Kotanko as a mentor and longtime friend.

“I got a phone from a guy in a deer stand,” Nagy said. “He was in the middle of hunting and he called me up and told me. And every Tom, Dick and Harry in Norfolk County has been calling me ever since.”

Nagy said Kotanko’s death left him saddened.

“He was real instrumental in helping me become a gunsmith,” said Nagy, who turned to Kotanko for advice when he bought Eli’s Guns and Archery in 2004.

Nagy likened Kotanko’s “unbelievable” talent to that of a master auto mechanic in that he could repair, rebuild and modify all manner of long guns and pistols.

“I would argue he was the best gunsmith in this country,” Nagy said.

According to reports from the SIU and Toronto police, the operation to execute a weapons search warrant on a property just north of Highway 6 started around noon.

One officer fired multiple shots outside the residence. The man was taken to hospital and later pronounced dead.

Kotanko ran a custom gunsmithing business, Dark International Trading Company, out of a home workshop, Nagy said.

Neighbours on Port Ryerse Road described him as friendly and unassuming.

According to his business website, Kotanko’s company also sold and shipped handguns and ammunition.

One of Kotanko’s specialties, Nagy said, was rebuilding handguns for use in target shooting competitions through the International Practical Shooting Confederation.

“He would rip that gun apart down to the frame and rebuild it. He knew what he was doing,” said Nagy.

“There were people all over this country that sent him their firearms to work on. There were people in England that did. And he actually fixed some guns for some law enforcement.”

Nagy said he is anxious to learn why Toronto police obtained a warrant to search Kotanko’s property and what led to the shooting.

He doesn’t believe Kotanko could have provoked it.

“He was the calmest, gentlest guy.”

The OPP declined to comment, deferring questions to the SIU.

The SIU has identified one Toronto police officer as the subject of its investigation, as well as three police witnesses.

An agency spokesperson said the investigation could take months.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator

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