SIU not laying charges against officer who fatally shot hammer-wielding man in Newmarket

SIU not laying charges against officer who fatally shot hammer-wielding man in Newmarket

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is not laying charges against a York Regional Police officer who shot and killed a hammer-wielding 37-year-old man in Newmarket last December.

The SIU, the province’s independent agency investigating the conduct of police that resulted in death, released the result of its investigation in the Dec. 7, 2023, incident at an apartment building on Crowder Boulevard.

SIU Director Joseph Martino said in the report that based on the evidence collected, there were no reasonable grounds to believe that the involved officer, referred to as the subject official (SO), committed a criminal offence in the man’s death.

Friday’s report detailed what occurred that evening, which began as a domestic disturbance call about a man, designated as the Complainant, and a woman fighting and smashing things in an apartment.

The SO and two other officers were dispatched to the address and escorted into the building’s foyer by one of the 911 callers, who led them to an elevator.

The SIU said all four spoke by the elevator for a few seconds before the officers entered a stairwell across the hallway. Shortly after, the elevator arrived on the main floor and inside were the Complainant and the woman.

According to the SIU, the Complainant was not supposed to have contact with the woman but still attended her apartment that day.

The 911 caller saw the two in the elevator and called out to the officers through the stairwell doors.

“Immediately thereafter, the Complainant emerged from the elevator and rushed towards the stairwell door, removing a hammer from a right front pocket as he did so,” the SIU said.

Hammer-Newmarket shooting

“The officers were alerted to the Complainant, who screamed out. He held the hammer in his right hand at chest level as he closed the distance on the officers.”

The SIU said when the Complainant was within a metre of the SO, who had his gun drawn, the officer fired 14 times in his direction.

The Complainant toppled forward and landed at the foot of the staircase. The SIU said the SO handcuffed him behind the back before providing first aid.

However, the Complainant was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy revealed that the Complainant had been struck by 13 of the 14 bullets fired by the SO, the SIU said.

“I am satisfied that the SO fired his gun to protect himself from a reasonably apprehended assault by the Complainant. At the time of the gunfire, the Complainant was moving towards the SO with a hammer in his right hand, giving every indication he was about to swing it at the officer. The officer was clearly under attack and acted to defend himself,” SIU Director Martino said.

He added that he was also satisfied the SO’s use of a firearm constituted reasonable force in self-defence. While the officer might have considered using a Taser, Martino said the weapon did not have the stopping power of a gun.

“The officer was at risk of grievous bodily harm or death had the Complainant been able to swing the hammer in his direction. And the risk was imminent,” he said in his report.

Lastly, Martino pointed out evidence suggesting that the last few shots were fired as the Complainant was falling or already on the floor.

“However, given the speed with which events unfolded, the tension of the moment, and the delay associated with reaction times, I am unable to conclude that any part of the SO’s gunfire was something other than a reasonable response to the threat presented by the Complainant,” the director said.

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