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Standoff victim killed himself

Died of single gunshot, police finally reveal week after shooting

With a team of heavily armed officers surrounding the only home he'd ever known, a distraught Andrew Baryluk ended his own life with a single gunshot.

Winnipeg police broke a week of silence Wednesday, finally revealing how the 52-year-old man died during a 17-hour standoff on Stella Avenue.

Chief Devon Clunis defended the secrecy surrounding their ongoing investigation, which led to plenty of anger and speculation from Baryluk's family members he may have been killed by a police bullet rather than his own hand.

"In the perfect world, we would love to be able to give you information instantaneously. But these are complex investigations," Clunis said. He admitted family members were told of Baryluk's suicide only minutes before the news conference.

Police also provided a more detailed timeline about the July 30-31 incident. Officers were called by family members around 10:45 a.m. after Baryluk spoke of harming himself with a gun if forced to vacate the home. Family members had recently sold the residence and Baryluk had been ordered evicted through the courts.

Police say they established contact with Baryluk by telephone, but that ended in the early evening hours. It was around 8:20 p.m. that police were trying to deliver another communication device to the home when the situation deteriorated.

Family members had previously said officers threw a "flash bang" into the home. Clunis said Wednesday that's not true. He said it's "my assumption" Baryluk opened fire as officers got close to the residence.

"They were moving in to place a communication device, not assaulting the house," said Clunis. "Shots were fired from within the residence; that's why officers retreated. Officers returned fire and retreated."

Clunis would not say what type of firearm Baryluk had or where he obtained it. As well, he wouldn't say how many shots were directed at police during the standoff, how many officers returned fire or how many shots were sent in Baryluk's direction.

Clunis said many of those answers will come from a forensic and ballistics analysis that is ongoing and is nothing like what the public sees on television crime dramas.

"I think we have a bit of a microwave mentality of investigations, that they are completed very quickly. That is not the reality of police work," said Clunis.

The Free Press reported earlier this week Baryluk had started flooding the home, which forced police to cut off the water and power supply because of fears of a fire or electrocution.

Clunis said they finally entered the home around 3 a.m., where Baryluk was found unconscious. An autopsy was conducted the next day, but isn't fully complete. Police are still waiting on toxicology results but said Wednesday they were able to release his cause of death.

"To be fair, if we came out very quickly and gave certain information, and later on discovered additional details, as much as I understand and appreciate that people want details very quickly, I think it's also prudent to ensure the information we are providing to you is as close to complete as we possibly can," said Clunis.

Seven officers involved in the incident have submitted written reports and remain on administrative leave, which is standard procedure. They will also undergo a mental-health assessment with a psychologist before returning to duty.

Baryluk's family has been critical of police for not allowing them to speak with the barricaded man, whom they described as suffering from undiagnosed mental illness. They believe they could have convinced him to surrender peacefully.

Clunis wouldn't say Wednesday why that request would have been denied.

"I'm really not going to get into the tactics; that's left for an operational debrief," he said. "Each and every situation is incredibly dynamic. I do not know what the incident commander was dealing with at the time."

Finally, Clunis defended the fact police homicide detectives are leading the investigation, rather than bringing in an outside, independent agency as the RCMP do.

"I really don't think that's necessary in this incident," said Clunis. "We're a very open and transparent organization. The number 1 thing for myself is the integrity and professionalism of our officers. I know the calibre of officers we have here. I absolutely trust their integrity."

www.mikeoncrime.com

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