Nova Scotia's police watchdog has cleared the two RCMP officers who shot and killed an active gunman in April, saying their actions were justified due to the threat he represented.
The officers shot the man responsible for the Nova Scotia shootings and arsons outside an Irving Big Stop in Enfield, N.S., on April 19. That brought an end to a two-day rampage that left 22 people, including an RCMP officer, dead.
In the summary of the Serious Incident Response Team investigation, SIRT director Felix Cacchione said the two officers knew the gunman had already killed people when they came across him at the Big Stop.
"[The officers] both witnessed first hand the results of the [gunman's] murderous acts in Portapique when they came upon several victims lying dead where they had been shot, and various buildings burned to the ground and vehicles set on fire by the [gunman]," the document said.
Cacchione said at the time the gunman was shot, he was in a stolen vehicle that contained ammunition and several guns — including one stolen from RCMP officer Const. Heidi Stevenson, whom he had killed. He was driving a grey Mazda that he had stolen from his most recent victim.
The officers, who were unaware of what car the gunman was driving at the time, came across him when they arrived at the same gas station to refuel. The officers pulled up to a pump adjacent to the one the gunman was at.
"[One of the officers] exited the vehicle to begin refueling and as he looked across to the adjoining pump, he observed a male with a noticeable hematoma and some blood on his forehead," Cacchione wrote.
"[The officer] recognized this person as [the gunman] from photographs he had seen at the command post. [The officer] drew his service weapon and alerted [the other officer] that [the gunman] was in the vehicle parked next to theirs."
The other officer, a member of the emergency response team, left the police vehicle and went to the front of it. The gunman then raised the pistol he stole from Stevenson, and the two officers began firing their service weapons. The gunman died at the scene.
Gunman 'represented a pressing threat'
Cacchione noted that the Criminal Code allows a police officer, acting on reasonable grounds, to use as much force as necessary to enforce or administer the law. He also said it allows officers to use force intended to cause death and bodily harm if they believe it's necessary to protect themselves or any other person from future death or grievous bodily harm.
"[The officers] were acutely aware that [the gunman] was armed and dangerous. They could properly infer from [the gunman's] previous acts and the possession of firearms that [the gunman] intended to continue his killing spree and represented a pressing threat to the public, themselves, and other police officers," Cacchione wrote.
As soon as the gunman raised a pistol to the officers, Cacchione said they knew he was "an immediate threat and split-second, high-consequence decisions were made."
"Their actions under these circumstances were lawfully justified and not excessive. Accordingly, there is no basis to conclude that the [officers] committed any criminal offence, therefore no charges are warranted against either officer," Cacchione concluded.
SIRT is still investigating a situation where RCMP officers opened fire at a fire hall in Onslow, N.S. that same day.
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