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Police tape marks a crime scene in this file photo. (JOHN LEHMANN/The GLOBE AND Mail)
Police tape marks a crime scene in this file photo. (JOHN LEHMANN/The GLOBE AND Mail)

B.C. police officer who fatally shot man outside casino says he feared for his life Add to ...

A British Columbia police officer who was charged with second-degree murder after he shot and killed a man holding a handgun – a charge that was later stayed – has told a coroner’s inquest he feared for his life and the lives of his fellow officers.

But his testimony came the same day that the inquest watched a video that appeared to show that the man holding the handgun was moving backward when he was hit.

Mehrdad Bayrami, 48, was killed in November, 2012. The inquest, which began Tuesday, has heard he took a former girlfriend hostage and fired two shots in her direction. She was not hit and was later freed. Mr. Bayrami was shot by police after an hours-long standoff and died 10 days later.

Constable Jordan MacWilliams, the Delta police officer who fired the shot, spoke publicly about the incident on Thursday for the first time.

He told the inquest Mr. Bayrami was moving toward the officers and was 20 to 25 yards away when he pointed his gun at them.

“It seemed very deliberate. He was walking with a purpose towards us. I don’t know what the purpose in his mind was. All I was doing was focusing on trying to make sure I kept my friends and myself safe, or as safe as I could,” he said.

Roderick MacKenzie, the inquest counsel, then asked if Constable MacWilliams had seen Mr. Bayrami start to lower his gun.

The officer responded: “I did see it go down after I shot him.”

Constable MacWilliams joined the Delta Police Department in 2009. He completed his training for a Lower Mainland emergency response team in April, 2012, and was providing “lethal overwatch” at the time he fired; it was his role to discharge his rifle if he believed it necessary to do so.

He said he was outside an armoured vehicle when he took the shot, and he feared the officers were not properly shielded. “Above the top of the armoured vehicle, our faces were exposed and some of our legs were exposed below the armoured vehicle.”

Constable MacWilliams said he was aware that Mr. Bayrami had thrown his magazine clip away and could have only one round left in his weapon.

He was charged with second-degree murder in October, 2014 – the first time an officer had been charged with murder in British Columbia in recent memory.

But the Crown stayed the charge in July. In a statement, it said video evidence showed Mr. Bayrami was moving backward when he was shot. However, it said an officer who intentionally uses lethal force in the course of his duties cannot be convicted if he believes the force was necessary to protect himself or someone else. The Crown said it could not prove Constable MacWilliams acted unreasonably.

The inquest watched a video of the shooting on Thursday. Mr. Bayrami could be seen on a sidewalk, holding a gun, and appeared to be stepping backward when he was shot. His daughter sobbed as the video was played. Mr. Bayrami could be seen falling to the ground. A police dog was sent in moments later and grabbed hold of him as he was injured.

Earlier Thursday, the inquest heard from other officers who responded to the call.

Constable Patrick Dyck of the Abbotsford Police Department said the call was one of the highest-risk scenarios he’d been involved in. He said Mr. Bayrami appeared mentally unstable and had already fired his weapon.

Constable Dan Di Paola of the Port Moody Police Department told the inquest he almost fired at Mr. Bayrami himself, when Mr. Bayrami’s girlfriend was still nearby. Constable Di Paola said he was just about to shoot but took his finger off the trigger when he saw Mr. Bayrami motion for the woman to leave.

The inquest earlier heard concerns about Mr. Bayrami’s mental state. His doctor said Mr. Bayrami had been severely depressed but had appeared to be improving after being prescribed an anti-depressant.

Mr. Bayrami’s former girlfriend has testified he repeatedly harassed her after she ended their relationship, following her everywhere she went, calling her dozens of times a day and slashing her tires.

The inquest is scheduled to hear testimony through Monday. An inquest jury can make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances, but it cannot assign blame.

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