Police officers will not face any charges for shooting a gun-toting man dead and injuring a woman at Toronto's Caribbean Carnival in July, Ontario's police watchdog has decided.
The Special Investigations Unit ruled officers had the right to use lethal force because 30-year-old Kevin Murray was running towards them with a pistol, but called the wounding of bystander Megan Martin, 21, “a great tragedy.”
In a report detailing its findings, the SIU said Mr. Murray and an associate were at the carnival parade in the early evening of July 30, a Saturday. The pair got into a fight with a third man on Lakeshore Boulevard West, which a passerby videoed. They proceeded to attack the photographer, who fled, and Mr. Murray chased after him, firing a pistol, the SIU said.
Two Toronto police officers rushed to the scene on foot, ordering the trio to get down on the ground and repeatedly demanding that Mr. Murray drop his pistol. The SIU said Mr. Murray refused, instead pointing his weapon in the officers' direction as he moved towards them. The officers opened fire, killing him.
Ms. Martin, who had nothing to do with any of the commotion, was attending the parade with a couple of friends. When she heard the ruckus, she turned towards it, then suddenly fell to the ground, unaware that she had been shot. The SIU ruled that she was injured by a stray police bullet intended for Mr. Murray.
The SIU assigned six investigators to the case. Both officers at the centre of the incident agreed to be interviewed by the SIU, which also spoke with 28 civilians and six police officers who witnessed the shooting. Investigators also reviewed the notes of a seventh officer and police radio transmission. In addition, the unit collected video of the incident shot by bystanders and examined forensic evidence, including police equipment and a 9 mm black Beretta pistol found at the scene.
SIU director Ian Scott ruled that Mr. Murray was an “imminent threat” to both the police and the nearby crowds.
“He was armed with a hand gun that he had discharged moments before he was shot, refused to comply with lawful police commands, and had aimed the hand gun at one of the subject officers,” Mr. Scott said in a statement. “Once the subject officers had the authority to use lethal force, the fact that one of their discharges missed its target and struck an innocent person is a great tragedy. However, given the imminent threat that Mr. Murray represented, I am of the view that the subject officers' discharges were justified.”
The SIU is a provincial agency which probes all incidents in which people are killed or injured by police and decides whether to lay charges.