Alberta watchdog exonerates police after two cases of suicide

Alberta watchdog exonerates RCMP officers after citizens die from self-harm
Alberta watchdog exonerates RCMP officers after citizens die from self-harm Courtesy Reddit

After investigating two separate incidents involving a citizen dying from suicide, Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has found all officers involved to have acted appropriately under the circumstances. 

The incidents required investigation because police had interactions with them, though in both cases the affected person fatally harmed themselves.

One of the investigations surrounds an incident in Calgary on October 25 at 5:30 a.m., when Calgary Police Service (CPS) was called to a residence in the northwest community of Royal Oak. 

Someone had called 911 “asking for help dealing with an adult male relative armed with a knife and acting erratically inside the residence.”

CPS officers, wearing their body cameras, entered the home. The lead officer spoke with the man with the knife, “who was at the top of a stairway leading from the main entrance.”

The lead officer, making sure the other officers were at a distance to “prevent the man from becoming agitated,”  attempted de-escalation “by calmly speaking with the man and reassuring him that no harm would come to him.”

“Although the man held onto the knife and verbally threatened to harm the lead officer at one point, the officer did not engage in any use of force nor seek cover,” the ASIRT report states. 

“The lead officer’s compassion was exemplary,” the report reads. Unfortunately, the man left the area at the top of the stairs and stabbed himself while alone upstairs in the residence.”

“When the attending officers became aware that the male was likely harming himself, they went upstairs and located the man suffering from significant injuries. Despite rendering first aid, the man’s self-inflicted injuries proved fatal.”

Because the sequence of events was captured on video with audio, ASIRT “determined the man tragically took his own life in the presence of officers. There was no use of force nor any other actions by officers that led to the man’s death.”

“The lead officer was the only officer to have meaningful contact with the man prior to his self-harm,” ASIRT reported, and “demonstrated professionalism and empathy.”

The second instance occurred in Sylvan Lake, just west of Red Deer. RCMP was called to a local residence on August 6 at 3:17 a.m. due to a man having barricaded himself in a bedroom armed with a shotgun. 

When officers arrived, they spoke to the man through the closed door of the bedroom. 

The conversation, which was recorded by microphones worn by the officers and linked to their vehicle’s recording system, entailed a “brief” exchange where the man inside the room “expressed a desire to harm himself and said he did not wish any harm to the attending officers.”

“The man stayed in the bedroom and did not have any physical interaction with the attending officers before shooting himself,” ASIRT wrote. 

The watchdog “verified that none of the attending officers had used their weapons, confirming the man’s injuries were self-inflicted.”

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