'Lay your weapon down'

An independent investigation says a Kelowna police officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing after shooting a man who was carrying a large axe handle at an illegal campsite. 

A police officer and a City of Kelowna employee responded to a homeless camp north of Ellison Lake at 12:55 p.m. on Aug. 3 after a complaint was made.

Once they neared the area, a person approached the officer and worker carrying an axe handle. 

The man told investigators that when he came out of his tent he saw a police officer “pointing a firearm at him" and that “he was using an axe handle as a crutch."

The police officer directed the man to drop the axe handle but he ignored the warning and continued towards them.

They retreated away from the man until they neared a wire fence and the man did not stop coming closer to them.

IIO was told by the City of Kelowna worker that the man’s arms were down and not visible. He then said to himself and the officer “you f***ers are chasing me all over the place [and] I’m not leaving.”

The City of Kelowna employee confirmed that the officer told the man to raise his hands and says the man yelled “you’re going to have to shoot me. I’m not leaving here.” 

The officer responded with “look, I don’t want to have to shoot you, but you have to lay your weapon down. We have to make this scene safe for both [City of Kelowna worker] and myself.

The altercation lasted about 10 minutes until he struck the ground with the axe handle to indicate frustration and he “wobbled” from side to side.

A photograph was taken of the man approaching the officer and worker with the axe handle in his hand. The City of Kelowna worker said the man “was too goddamn close.”

Police asked the man to stop or he could be shot, states the report. He did not stop and the officer shot the man.

He was taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries and RCMP notified the Independent Investigations Office at 1:35 p.m.

IIO learned that the man didn’t have a residence and an acquaintance showed him the unauthorized encampment where he was living for six months. 

The report found that the officer did follow police procedure and tried to de-escalate the situation while at the same time protecting herself and the City of Kelowna worker. 

“She had backed up almost all the way to the fence. Turning and attempting to climb over the fence was unreasonable as it would have left her defenceless,” reads the report. 

The officer was faced with an angry man advancing towards her with a large axe handle in a threatening manner. 

“It was certainly reasonable for her to conclude that this non-compliant and angry man with a significant weapon could easily cause her imminent grievous bodily harm,” states the IIO.

IIO says the man fully recovered from his injury sustained during the incident. 

The Independent Investigations Office investigates officer-involved incidents that result in death or serious harm. The full report was released on Thursday and can be viewed online here

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