By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — A Manitoba judge is calling for new rules governing imitation firearms to reduce the risk of fatal shootings involving police and so-called suicides-by-cop.
An inquest report from provincial court Judge Lindy Choy, who oversaw a probe into the deaths of two men in 2015, says the wide availability of toys and replicas that look like real guns leads to dangerous situations.
“The availability of imitation firearms in society makes it more likely that police will be provoked to use lethal force,” Choy wrote in her report released Wednesday.
“I recommend the Province of Manitoba consider enacting legislation regulating the acquisition and possession of imitation firearms to reduce the risk of harm to the person possessing the imitation firearm, members of the public and law enforcement officials.”
Choy’s inquest looked at the deaths of Haki Sefa and Mark DiCesare — two men who were shot after being chased by Winnipeg police in separate cases, six weeks apart, in the fall of 2015.
Sefa had told relatives that he intended to kill himself and had also talked about killing someone else before police, who had been called by Sefa’s family concerned about his well-being, pursued and stopped him on a highway.
Sefa started to exit his van when he pointed his firearm directly at police. He was told to drop his weapon, did not, and was shot, the inquest heard.
DiCesare pointed a gun at an officer as he drove by in a car, and after a lengthy police chase, held a weapon to his head while sitting in the vehicle.
He got out of his car and pointed the firearm under his chin. He then said, “Sorry, you guys are going to have to do this,” the inquest was told. He turned his weapon around, pointing it directly at officers, and was shot multiple times.
Sefa had a real handgun. DiCesare, it turned out, had a replica BB gun that looked like a submachine-gun.
Choy said officers had little choice but to shoot in both cases.
“When faced with the imminent threat of a firearm being pointed directly at a police officer, there can be no choice but to respond in such a way as to effectively remove the threat,” she wrote.
“In the DiCesare case, the firearm was a replica and did not pose a real threat of grave harm. There was no way, however, for police to know this and an incorrect assumption that the weapon was fake could mean the death of one or more officers.”
Choy’s report does not specify what action the government should take other than to consider “enacting legislation to regulate the sale and possession of imitation weapons.”
“While a portion of the population may enjoy their use in sport or entertainment, the negative impact imitation weapons have on our communities warrants the need for some regulation.”
Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said in a statement he would take a look at the report.
“We are in the process of reviewing it and thoroughly examining its recommendations.”