Police watchdog clears OPP following shootout near Haliburton that left one man dead

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit has ended its probe into the shooting death of a man near Haliburton last year, stating officers’ lives “were in grave danger and they acted reasonably and proportionately.”

Officers with the Haliburton OPP responded to reports of an assault at a Minden grocery store on July 15, 2020. A man who was asked to wear a mask allegedly refused to do so and instead assaulted two employees before trying to strike others with his vehicle as he left the scene.

According to the SIU report, police gave chase but backed off after the fleeing suspect began driving aggressively. Officers followed the suspect to his Indian Point Road address in Dysart et Al. from a distance.

Due to previous reports of gunfire being heard from the address, the two responding officers donned protective armour and carried rifles with them as they searched the property for the suspect. Instead, the SIU says the suspect opened fire on the two officers from a concealed position, who took cover and fired back.

The SIU says one officer fired nine times, the other, 19. Of those, three bullets struck the suspect, who was rushed to hospital and was pronounced deceased shortly after. None of the officers was hit. The SIU says the suspect’s rifle held ten shots but was only loaded with five when the weapon was recovered, while the suspect had a bag of ammo and a secondary weapon with him when he was found. He had also changed into camouflaged clothing prior to police arrival.

SIU Director Joseph Martino said the officers acted accordingly. “In that instant, the officers’ lives were in grave danger and they acted reasonably and proportionately, in my view, in resorting to lethal force of their own. Retreat or withdrawal were not realistic options in the moment,” he said in his final report on the incident. ” I am unable to reasonably conclude that the number of shots fired by the officers was excessive.”