By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — An investigation by Manitoba’s police watchdog has found an officer was justified when he shot and wounded a 16-year-old boy wielding a machete.
“The actions of the subject officer were appropriate to the situation, and the use of potentially lethal force was necessary, justified and unavoidable,” Zane Tessler, the Independent Investigation Unit’s civilian director, said in a report released Friday.
The report said Winnipeg police responded to a call of an armed robbery at a west end 7-Eleven in November 2019.
The unit’s investigators interviewed nine witnesses and 10 officers who responded to the scene. They also went through security footage from the store, a nearby traffic camera and video uploaded by a witness to Facebook.
Witnesses said that soon after the teen entered the convenience store, he walked up to the counter and, holding a machete above his head, demanded cash from employees. Staff opened the register and ran to a back office, locking themselves inside. They called 911.
A father with his two young sons, who was getting hot chocolate in the store, told investigators that they desperately ran from the store, fearing for their safety.
When police arrived, the report said the teen tried to leave but struggled with the door, pounding on it more than 100 times with the machete. He eventually forced the door open and walked out, holding the machete about his head.
Police and witnesses said they saw the boy walk toward an officer with the machete, the report said. They also told investigators that officers yelled for the teen to drop the weapon.
Police fired a Taser at the boy, but it had no effect.
In police notes filed for the investigation, the officer who fired his gun said he was fearful that the boy was “intent on directing this machete forcefully at me.”
The officer fired four to five shots, but the teen kept walking in his direction, the report said. The officer fired another round and the teen fell against a wall.
He was taken to hospital, where he had surgery. He was released about a month later.
The boy did not meet with the unit’s investigators but his medical information was handed over. It showed he was shot five times, including in his neck, abdomen and thigh.
Tessler said in the report that the threat posed by the teen was “real, substantial and required to be neutralized.”
There were no grounds to justify charges against the officer, he said.
“It is my view that the use of lethal force by (the officer) was reasonable, necessary and justified in law.”
Winnipeg police recently faced criticism after officers shot and killed four people this year. Three of those people, including a 16-year-old girl, died with a 10-day span. Two people were killed in police shootings in Winnipeg in 2019 and there were none in 2018.