The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has determined a Calgary Police Service member’s actions in a confrontation with a suspect were justified despite the fact the shooting left the man confined to a wheelchair.
On the morning of March 21, 2015, an anti-racism rally was held outside City Hall and Calgary Police Service members were deployed to ensure the event remained peaceful.
During the rally, a man, later identified by police as Morgan Thompson, approached the demonstrators and allegedly shouted ‘White Power’ and produced a clenched fist. The man proceeded to ‘flip off’ the crowd which prompted laughter from the gathering.
The man left without further incident and a CPS supervisor directed two officers to speak with the man. A third officer said the man had spit on the sidewalk, a bylaw offence.
As the officers approached the man and requested identification, the man jogged away westbound and was seen jaywalking across both Macleod Trail and 1 Street Southeast.
A description of the man was aired across CPS radios and an officer in a van witnessed the man travelling northbound on Centre Street. The officer followed the man into an alleyway between 7 Avenue and Stephen Avenue Southwest and continued the pursuit on foot.
“The events in the alley were not only witnessed by a number of individuals but also were monitored by several closed circuit cameras,” said Sue Hughson, ASIRT executive director. “Although the civilian witnesses were very forthcoming and honest in their recollections, where the recollections differ from the events as depicted in the video, reliance has been placed on the video evidence.”
According to Hughson, the suspect stopped and faced the officer. The CPS member placed a hand on the man’s shoulder and the suspect responded by punching the officer in the head.
The officer grabbed his service-issued baton and struck the man on the wrist.
The man produced an object from behind his back. The officer dropped his baton, drew his pistol and fired four shots as the man lifted a pipe above his head and threw it at the CPS member. The suspect was struck by two of the shots the officer had fired..
“Officers immediately provided emergency medical care until Emergency Medical Services could arrive,” said Hughson. “He was treated on scene by EMS and transported to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. The man survived his injuries however one bullet entered his lower left chest wall, struck a lung and, tragically, became lodged in his spine which has resulted in a permanent disability and confinement to a wheelchair.”
The Calgary Police Service identified the shooting victim as Morgan Thompson, who was 30 years old at the time of the incident.
Hughson says ASIRT has completed its investigation into the officer’s actions and determined the shooting was justified given how quickly the situation unfolded.
“He’s got an uncontrolled person that he doesn’t know who has punched him, who is not responding and who is producing a weapon from behind his back,” explained Hughson. “His response is not unreasonable.”
ASIRT will not release the surveillance video but all of the parties involved have had the opportunity to see the recording.
Hughson says there’s a lesson to learn from the events of March 21, 2015.“When you are stopped, don’t punch the officer.”
“It’s terrible that a person has been paralyzed as a result of an incident that started out as spitting on a sidewalk.”
In a statement, the Calgary Police Service says an internal review of the incident will be conducted but ‘there is no evidence to indicate any breaches of policy or procedure by the member involved and he is not facing any internal discipline’.
Thompson will not face charges in connection with the events of March 21, 2015 as ‘it has been deemed not to be in the public’s interest’.