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News Release

Charges Not Warranted In Toronto Shooting Death Case

Case Number: 16-TFD-072

Mississauga, ON (16 May, 2017) ---
The Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Tony Loparco, has determined there are no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against any Toronto Police Service officer in relation to the shooting death of  21-year-old Alexander Wettlaufer in March of 2016.

Seven investigators and two forensic investigators were assigned to this incident.

The SIU interviewed six civilian witnesses, two police employees and 19 witness officers. Three subject officers were designated. None of the subject officers consented to an interview with the SIU or to the release of their duty notes, as is their legal right.

The SIU obtained and reviewed the following evidence:
  • A 35 minute recording of a call between Mr. Wettlaufer and a 911 dispatcher. This recording captured Mr. Wettlaufer’s interaction with the two initial police officers, inclusive of the police response to Mr. Wettlaufer producing a weapon, and the first portion of the standoff on the footbridge. 
  • A more than 13 minute audio recording of a portion of the negotiation, up to and including the shooting. 
  • Forensic analysis of Mr. Wettlaufer’s firearm as well as firearm evidence from the three subject officers who fired their weapons.
  • Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) surveillance footage from Leslie Station which showed Mr. Wettlaufer near the payphone from where the 911 call was made. Surveillance footage did not capture “the altercation” alleged to have occurred by the caller. 

The SIU investigation found the following:
  • At 11:05 p.m. on March 13, 2016, a call was made to 911 from a payphone at the TTC station located at Leslie Street and Sheppard Avenue East. The caller indicated that he had observed two males fighting and that one of them was armed with a gun. He provided a description of the man with the gun, said the man’s name was ‘Alex’ and even provided the phone number of the man with the gun. The caller, who would later be identified as Mr. Wettlaufer, hung up the phone soon after.
  • After dispatching officers, Emergency Services called the number provided and spoke to ‘Alex’. The voice and demeanour of this man was very similar to that of the initial caller. ‘Alex’ was later confirmed to be Mr. Wettlaufer.
  • Meanwhile, two officers arrived in the area and drove around the station attempting to locate any persons of interest. They also entered the station in order to survey the area. After getting back in the cruiser, the officers drove eastbound on Sheppard Avenue East. In the crosswalk west of Leslie Street, the officers spotted Mr. Wettlaufer who was speaking on a cell phone. He matched the description of the man that had been detailed in the radio call. When the officers were approximately 4.5 metres away from Mr. Wettlaufer, the cruiser stopped and the two officers exited the vehicle. Mr. Wettlaufer made eye contact with the two officers, but then suddenly turned around and walked northbound away from them. As he walked away, he kept his hands in his pockets and continually looked back over his shoulders at the officers. 
  • As the officers followed Mr. Wettlaufer, he was instructed to take his hands out of his pockets. Mr. Wettlaufer replied by swearing, but slowed down, allowing one of the officers to reach out and grab his left hand out of his pocket. It was revealed that Mr. Wettlaufer was grasping his cell phone with his left hand. Mr. Wettlaufer pulled against the officer, and attempted to continue northbound with his right hand in his pocket. A bulge in the right pocket was visible, and based on the information the officers previously received as well as the interaction with Mr. Wettlaufer, it was concluded that he was carrying a firearm. 
  • When Mr. Wettlaufer and one of the officers were approximately half a metre apart, Mr. Wettlaufer abruptly turned around to face the officer and pointed what appeared to be a black handgun at the officer. The officer shoved Mr. Wettlaufer backwards with his left hand and drew his own firearm with his right hand.
  • Mr. Wettlaufer fled from the officers, entering Villaways Park and then running along a footpath. During the chase, Mr. Wettlaufer continually looked back at the two officers. The officers maintained a distance of approximately 6 metres, all the while yelling at Mr. Wettlaufer to “stop” and “drop the gun.” During the pursuit, Mr. Wettlaufer side-stepped and pointed his gun at one of the officers. This officer got in position in order to take aim at Mr. Wettlaufer; however, because there were other people in the park he decided that it was not safe to discharge his gun. 
  • At approximately 11:20 p.m., Mr. Wettlaufer ran to a footbridge that spans the Don River and stopped. The two pursuing officers stopped approximately 15 to 20 metres away and took cover while they waited for members of the Emergency Task Force (ETF) to arrive to provide assistance. 
  • Upon arrival, the ETF took a position approximately nine to 15 metres from the bridge, from where they could see Mr. Wettlaufer holding what appeared to be a handgun. At this time, he was on the phone with the 911 operator. During the phone call, Mr. Wettlaufer continually reasserted his desire to be killed, conveyed his reluctance to surrender his gun and attempted to verbally bait the police into shooting him. The call came to an end when it was decided that the ETF officers required Mr. Wettlaufer’s full attention.
  • Moments later, a sibling called Mr. Wettlaufer. To ensure control of the dynamic and stressful situation, ETF members had this call terminated as well.
  • During the negotiation, Mr. Wettlaufer was observed by multiple officers to continually alternate between placing his weapon on the guardrail and picking it up. At one point, he walked to the front of the bridge and threw his cell phone at the ETF officers. 
  • One of the subject officers, tasked with negotiating with Mr. Wettlaufer, continually requested that Mr. Wettlaufer put the gun down, and ordered him not to point it at the officers. The officer repeatedly indicated that they were there to help him, not hurt him. Mr. Wettlaufer made many statements to the officer, including that the officers were going to have to shoot him. 
  • Mr. Wettlaufer picked up his weapon again and pointed it at the ETF officers, ignoring the negotiating officer who incessantly requested that Mr. Wettlaufer put the gun down, and pleaded with him to let the officers help. This was of no avail.
  • Three officers fired a total of four shots, with three bullets striking Mr. Wettlaufer. He was pronounced dead on March 14, 2016.

The post-mortem report found the cause of death to be gunshot wounds to the chest. 

Director Loparco said, “There is no question that the three subject officers were acting in the course of their duty when they attended the scene in response to a firearm call. The only issue that I need to consider is whether the shooting was justified. There is no doubt in my mind that it was. The applicable provision of the Criminal Code is section 34(1) which provides the legal justification for the use of force in defence of self and defence of others. 

“Mr. Wettlaufer presented a very real danger to the members of the ETF and the other officers on scene. He had already pulled what appeared to be a real firearm on two officers earlier that evening. He had ready access to the weapon while on the footbridge, and over the course of a lengthy standoff, he ignored multiple opportunities to peacefully surrender himself into custody. Despite the urging of the 911 operator – who seemingly managed to develop a rapport with him – Mr. Wettlaufer showed no indication that he would surrender himself. Regardless of whatever his thought process was at the time, there is no question that he presented a real threat to the safety of the officers present. It is not relevant that the weapon in his possession turned out to be a BB gun. It was a more than convincing imitation firearm, and officers in such a situation do not have the luxury of waiting to be fired on to confirm a weapon’s functionality.” 

Director Loparco continued, “Immediately before the three subject officers fired on Mr. Wettlaufer, he picked up his imitation firearm and aimed it at the ETF officers. He disregarded repeated demands to drop his weapon. The three officers responded with deadly force when faced with the prospect of imminent death or bodily harm. Both their inferred assessment of imminent harm and their collective response were reasonable in the circumstances. 

“In that first 911 call, Mr. Wettlaufer clearly provided information to ensure that he himself would be identified as the suspect. He matched the suspect description that he provided, namely a male in his early 20’s, wearing a blue sweater and a grey baseball hat. He also indicated that the individual with the gun was named Alex. Lastly, he conveyed the suspect’s phone number, which was in fact his own number. The irrefutable conclusion is that the 911 call received by emergency services was a ruse orchestrated by Mr. Wettlaufer aimed at implicating himself. 

“Given that Mr. Wettlaufer was no doubt aware that he had a mere BB gun in hand, his actions lead me to the conclusion that he was attempting to bait the police into fatally shooting him by creating a perilous situation. My conclusion is further informed by the various comments that Mr. Wettlaufer made to the 911 operator, including his desire to be killed. His intentions, while tragic, were also clear.” 

Director Loparco concluded, “The full body of evidence satisfies all three requirements of section 34 of the Criminal Code. There are thus no reasonable grounds to believe that any of the subject officers exceeded the ambit of justifiable force in the circumstances. No charges will issue.” 

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must

  • consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence  in connection with the incident under investigation
  • depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
  • report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General. 

Lisez ce communiqué en français.

Monica Hudon, monica.hudon@ontario.ca
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342