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City police, RCMP missing the mark?

Officers' shots often wound, not kill, target

Matthew Prince was shot and wounded by Winnipeg police in 2009.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Matthew Prince was shot and wounded by Winnipeg police in 2009.

It would seem like a death wish: confronting authority and putting them in the position of having to open fire.

Evan Cromarty: unarmed?

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Evan Cromarty: unarmed?

John Charlette: shot in North End alley

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John Charlette: shot in North End alley

Geoffrey Reid: struck in lower body

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Geoffrey Reid: struck in lower body

Lance Muir: shot and killed

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Lance Muir: shot and killed

Craig McDougall: carrying knife or cell?

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Craig McDougall: carrying knife or cell?

CTV Winnipeg 
Roy Bell: history of mental illness

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CTV Winnipeg Roy Bell: history of mental illness

Yet the majority of so-called "bad guys" who've been on the receiving end of a police bullet in Manitoba have lived to tell the tale.

A Free Press analysis shows there have been at least 23 incidents since 2007 in which Winnipeg police and Manitoba RCMP officers have pulled the trigger in the course of their duties.

Yet only 15 cases ended with someone actually being shot. And only six of those people suffered fatal injuries.

That may seem like a surprising result considering police are trained to shoot for the so-called "centre of mass." You'd think with that amount of gunfire being aimed towards the heart, the body count would be a lot higher.

You would be wrong.

Evan Cromarty, 20, suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder last weekend in Norway House as RCMP tried to arrest him on a string of outstanding criminal charges. Witnesses reported four shots fired his way, with only one striking him.

Last month, Andrew Lebrun, 21, was struck in the upper arm by Winnipeg police responding to a Domo robbery in progress. Witnesses say at least three bullets were fired, with just one hitting him.

Some may say these two men are lucky to be alive. But the statistics show they are actually the norm, not the exception.

So why is that? Are police in Manitoba ignoring their own policies and shooting at the extremities? Or are they following procedure but just lousy shots?

Experts who spoke to the Free Press Tuesday say the answer is "neither."

"There are a ton of variables that can happen," said Mark Valois, a now retired Toronto police officer who specializes in use-of-force training with the Canadian Tactical Officers Association. He says it's a misconception that police officers "shoot to kill" when they utilize their last resort of opening fire. In reality, they are simply trying to immobilize the target to reduce the threat.

"To instantly kill someone you'd have to shoot them in the head. But police aren't trained to do that," he said.

And so the centre of the body it is, where there is the greatest chance of cutting the suspect down to size.

Retired Winnipeg police officer James Jewell said where the shot ultimately ends up can be impacted by numerous factors including movement, adrenaline, distance, stress and time.

"Officer-involved shootings are dynamic, high-stress incidents that often occur in a matter of mere seconds," said Jewell. "While it's true many suspects have been shot in the shoulder, arm, thigh and buttocks, I can assure you these areas were not the intended targets."

Of course, a lot of folks wonder why Canadian police aren't as trigger-happy as their American colleagues.

One recent story has become legendary in police and justice circles. A Florida man shot and killed an officer and his police dog, then refused to give up when surrounded by a SWAT team. A total of 110 bullets were fired his way, with more than half hitting him. He died instantly.

When asked by reporters why his officers shot the guy 68 times, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said it actually would have been a lot more but "that's all the bullets we had."

All Canadian police officers must go through yearly re-certification of their firearms training. Valois said major improvements have been made in that area, with officers no longer simply shooting at a paper target. Instead, they are now exposed to simulated "scenario-based" training, which is much more effective.

"Ultimately, the ability for a suspect to survive a police-involved shooting is often a game of inches," said Jewell. "You would have to count yourself very lucky to live to tell the tale."

www.mikeoncrime.com

Police-involved shootings in the past seven years

The 15 police-involved shootings in Manitoba since 2007 where a suspect was hit. This list does not include eight other cases in that same time span, all in Winnipeg, where shots were fired by police at a suspect or vehicle but nobody was hit.

JULY 2014: Evan Cromarty, 20, shot and wounded by RCMP in Norway House. Police were trying to arrest him on new criminal charges. Witnesses say he was unarmed and that as many as four shots were fired. He suffered a bullet wound to the shoulder. Alberta police have been brought in to investigate.

MAY 2014: Andrew Lebrun, 21, shot and wounded by Winnipeg police. He was accused of robbing a Domo -- where his own brother was working -- and then lunging towards police with a knife. A witness believes three shots were fired. He suffered a bullet wound to the upper arm.

NOVEMBER 2011: Steven Peters, 28, shot and wounded by RCMP on Long Plain First Nation. Police were responding to a call about multiple assaults on the reserve. Peters confronted police while armed with a baseball bat. He suffered a bullet wound to the stomach. Regina police were brought in to investigate.

JULY 2011: John Charlette, 27, shot and wounded by Winnipeg police in a North End alley. He was accused of robbing a cab driver and threatening both him and responding police with a knife. He suffered a bullet wound to an undisclosed location. His lawyer later told court Charlette was attempting "suicide by cop."

MARCH 2011: Paul Duck, 52, shot and killed by RCMP in God's Lake First Nation. Duck confronted police while armed with a shotgun. He was struck twice and died instantly. Saskatoon police were brought in to investigate.

NOVEMBER 2010: A 14-year-old boy shot and wounded by Winnipeg police on Portage Avenue. The teen was behind the wheel of a vehicle which led police on a high-speed mid-day chase and veered towards officers. The teen suffered a bullet wound to an undisclosed location.

JULY 2010: Geoffrey Reid, 23, shot and wounded by Winnipeg police on Alexander Avenue. Reid threatened police with a gun following a traffic stop. He was struck once in the lower body.

MAY 2010: Lance Muir, 42, shot and killed by Winnipeg police on Langside Street. The former biker with a notorious criminal past had broken into a home, then led police on a dangerous high-speed chase in a stolen car. Witnesses say he was armed with a crowbar and had veered his car towards officers.

MARCH 2010: Eric Daniels, 28, shot and killed by Winnipeg police on Sargent Avenue. The known gang member confronted police with a machete and refused to drop the weapon when they responded to a disturbance call. Three shots were fired, and one struck and killed him.

JULY 2009: Derek Richard, 27, shot and wounded by Winnipeg police on Mountain Avenue. Police were executing a drug search warrant when they were confronted by Richard. Police never disclosed if he was armed with a weapon. He was struck with at least two bullets in the stomach.

FEBRUARY 2009: Matthew Prince, 24, shot and wounded by Winnipeg police on Ashburn Street. Police were responding to the stabbing of a woman when they were confronted by the man who was armed with a pair of butcher knives. He suffered two bullet wounds to the arm and thigh.

AUGUST 2008: Craig McDougall, 26, shot and killed by Winnipeg police on Simcoe Street. He confronted police with what they believed was a knife -- but witnesses claim was a cellphone -- when they responded to a disturbance call. He was Tasered and then shot four times. An inquest into his death is pending.

DECEMBER 2007: Roy Bell, 44, shot and killed by Winnipeg police on Langside Street. Bell confronted police while armed with an airsoft pellet gun and had a history of mental illness, which led to his discharge from the Canadian Forces.

JULY 2007: Kristofer Fournier, 23, shot and wounded by Winnipeg police in River Heights. Fournier, a known drug dealer, had led police on a high-speed chase. He was unarmed. He suffered a bullet wound to the buttocks. Two police officers involved in the shooting were charged criminally but later acquitted by a jury.

MARCH 2007: Ahmed Saleh-Azad, 61, shot and killed by Winnipeg police responding to a call for help inside Madison Memorial Lodge on Evanson Street. He had just stabbed a man to death and refused police demands to drop his weapon as he hovered over the victim's body.

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 7:58 AM CDT:
Replaces photo, reorders photos

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