Two undercover police officers have been cleared of wrongdoing after firing 45 bullets from their guns when faced with two armed suspects in Markham, Ont., killing one and seriously injuring another.
The incident took place on the morning of Nov. 25, 2022 on Eyer Drive, near Woodbine and 16th avenues.
According to Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which investigates all incidents of death, injury or sexual assault involving the police, the two officers had been following the suspects in relation to a series of home invasions that took place in the area between September and November.
The suspects became aware they were being followed and pulled over, the SIU said.
One of the occupants got out of the vehicle and approached the truck the officers were driving, shouting and demanding to know who they were.
The officer driving the truck rolled down his window to answer and the suspect shattered the glass.
Another suspect then approached the driver’s side of the truck with a loaded shotgun, the SIU said, aiming the weapon at the officer’s head.
“The officer yelled “gun,” ordered (the suspect) to drop the weapon, and then began to fire his handgun numerous times through the driver’s window,” othe civilian agency said.
The second officer seated in the front passenger seat did the same thing.
Both suspects fled towards their vehicle. One of them, the SIU said, was hit in the head by a bullet and killed.
The other made it to the front passenger seat after being hit multiple times by gunshots to his body.
The SIU said both officers had emptied their magazines. One of the two cops reloaded his weapon and continued to fire, believing the second suspect to be reaching into the backseat for another weapon.
That suspect was taken into custody and transported to hospital for treatment.
A third civilian witness was also taken into custody at the scene. They were unharmed during the exchange of gunfire.
SIU Director Joseph Martino found in his analysis released Saturday there were “no reasonable grounds” that either officer committed a criminal offence in the death of one suspect and the injury of another.
“I am satisfied that (the officers) were acting to defend themselves, each other, and, in the latter stages of the exchange, other officers, from a reasonably apprehended assault at the time of the gunfire,” he wrote.
“The circumstances that prevailed at the time give credence to the officers’ evidence in this regard, each of whom said in their SIU interviews that they fired their guns fearing their lives were at stake. Confronted with a shotgun, the officers had every reason to believe that they were at imminent risk of grievous bodily harm or death. That fear, in my view, held true throughout the barrage of gunfire.”
Martino was less confident in whether the number of gunshots discharged by the officer was reasonable, saying that he was unable to provide a conclusion.
“In the cold light of hindsight, it might be said that the risk of death had receded, but it would be difficult to suggest that the risk had disappeared even from this vantage point.”