The death of a man in police custody last year has been ruled a suicide. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has finished its investigation on the February 11, 2017 death, and found officers did nothing wrong in their response.
Beaverlodge RCMP were called to a home near Goodfare around 9:50 p.m. A neighbour who had been watching the property for the homeowner noticed a vehicle parked for some time and lights on in the basement. Police reached the homeowner, who confirmed no one was supposed to be inside.
“He gave the RCMP permission to enter the home,” ASIRT says. “It was believed that the person in the residence was known to the homeowner and Beaverlodge RCMP. The man had a significant criminal history, had outstanding warrants, and could be unpredictable.”
Three officers entered and found a man on the couch. He jumped up with a shotgun in his hand and refused repeated instructions to drop the gun. Mounties backed out of the home, followed to the door by the man still armed.
The man was again ordered to drop his weapon, but he went back inside instead. As police moved to safer positions, they heard a single gunshot.
“After determining it was safe to enter the home, officers went in and found the man, deceased, on a landing halfway down the basement stairs,” ASIRT says in its report. “He had a visible head wound and the shotgun was recovered propped between his legs in a position consistent with suicide.”
An autopsy determined the 20 year old died as a result of a self-inflicted shotgun wound, which would have been immediate. He had also used marijuana and cocaine before his death.
ASIRT investigates incidents involving police that result in serious injury or death. In this case, the man’s death was considered to be in-custody because it happened while he was in contact with and in a house contained by RCMP.
“In this case, it is clear that man died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” an ASIRT release states. “The officers on scene were acting in the lawful execution of their duties, had permission to enter the residence and when the man escalated the situation, they tried to de-escalate by backing out of the residence and tactically repositioning until additional support could attend.”
Executive director Susan B. Hughson has determined there are no reasonable grounds or reasonable suspicion to believe any officers on scene committed an offence.