SIU clear Kingston Police officer of any wrongdoing during fatal stabbing

SIU on scene following the fatal stabbing incident of Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Photo by Cris Vilela.

WARNING: This article contains images that readers may find shocking or disturbing.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving police where there has been a death or serious injury, has concluded that a Kingston Police officer operated within his jurisdiction during the downtown stabbing incident on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019.

The SIU released their report outlining the happenings during that incident – including the death of one Kingstonian and the attempted stabbing of another – from Director Joseph Martino on Monday, Jun. 1, 2020. The report outlines the happenings of that incident, and the ensuing investigation by SIU. That investigation included the reviewing of all evidence collected on the scene, including the knife used by the complainant, Evan Freeman, who was later identified as the assailant in the incident.

The knife used in the stabbing incident in downtown Kingston on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Photo via SIU.

The investigation also included the reviewing of two cellphone videos taken by civilian witnesses, as well as statements from 22 civilian witnesses and four witness police officers, and police communications recordings.

The report gives a detailed overview and timeline of the events that took place at the intersection of Queen and Bagot Streets on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. It begins by describing how the officer in question (referred to as the ‘Subject Officer’ or ‘SO’ throughout the report) initially became involved in the incident. According to the SIU, the officer was on routine patrol that day when he was flagged down by a pedestrian who “reported that a man was up the street stabbing people.” The officer immediately attended the scene and attempted to arrest the man, who was shot and later died at the scene, at which point, the SIU’s mandate was invoked.

The report continues to explain that “just about the entire incident was captured on the cell phone video as recorded by an independent civilian witness.” It describes how that video shows the one man lying in the street, who was later determined to be the man who died of the stab wounds inflicted on him by the assailant, Christopher Barry, 40. It then describes how the video shows the assailant holding onto and struggling with a second man on the street, whom the assailant forces to the ground before stabbing twice in the face area.

The SIU outlines how, as the subject officer arrived on the scene and spoke into his police radio while simultaneously drawing his firearm and shouting at the assailant to get down on the ground, to which the assailant responded “Fuck you!” At that point, the assailant moved away from his second victim who remained lying on the ground.

Over the next few minutes, the assailant ran into the street and then chased a woman onto the sidewalk. The officer in question continued to point his firearm at the assailant, while yelling at him to drop the knife and get on the ground. It was when the assailant suddenly turned towards the officer and ran at him that the officer fired a single shot, striking the assailant in the abdomen, however, the assailant continued to run. After running away from the scene, the assailant turned back and ran at the officer again, all while the officer continued to yell for him to get on the ground with his firearm drawn and aimed. It was when the assailant moved to the sidewalk on the northwest corner of the intersection that the officer, now supported by other officers who arrived on scene, began to move towards the assailant.

While he was holding the large knife with a 20 cm blade, the officer in question remained with his firearm aimed at the assailant. The assailant then raised the blade and began advancing on the officer, who backed up, maintaining his aim on the assailant. When the assailant then charged at the officer with the knife, coming within a couple of meters of the officer, the officer fired his pistol once, striking the assailant for the second time. The assailant then moved back onto the sidewalk at the northwest corner of the intersection as the officer continued yelling for him to drop the knife. The assailant proceeded to take the knife and stab or slash himself in the neck multiple times,” the SIU recounted in the report. It was at that time the officer in question and another Kingston Police officer deployed their conductive energy weapons (Tasers) one time each. The assailant fell backwards as a result, and officers were able to move in, disarm him, and begin to perform life-saving measures.

The firearm, magazines, and bullet found in the chamber of the gun used by the officer in question during the fatal stabbing incident that took place at Queen and Bagot Streets on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Photo via SIU.

The report states that a forensic pathologist performed a post-mortem examination on the assailant at Kingston General Hospital, and concluded that the cause of death was stab wounds to the neck and a gunshot wound to the torso.

Director Martino outlined his decision, which found no grounds for charging the officer in question.

“From a review of this evidence, and for the reasons that follow, I am unable to find that the deadly force used against the Complainant was excessive or unjustified, and therefore have no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in relation to the discharge of his firearm and the subsequent death of the Complainant,” Martino said in the report, noting that police officers are immune from criminal liability for lethal force used in the course of their duties provided they reasonably believe such force is necessary to protect oneself or a third-party under their protection from death or grievous bodily harm.

“On the record in this case, I have no difficulty in finding that the SO’s use of lethal force against the Complainant was legally justified. For whatever reason, the Complainant was on a violent rampage. Knife in hand, with a 20-centimetre blade, he had viciously attacked an innocent civilian – now deceased – and was in the middle of stabbing another… The Complainant was obviously subject to lawful arrest,” Martino continued.

“The SO demonstrated restraint as the Complainant closed the distance between them… it is clear that the Complainant was on the cusp of launching a knife attack on the SO when the officer fired his weapon. It is also clear that the SO had no other option if he was going to preserve himself from a potentially lethal attack. In the result, while it appears that the gunshot wound the Complainant sustained, in combination with the knife wounds he self-inflicted, contributed to his death, I am satisfied that the SO acted lawfully throughout his engagement with the Complainant,” Martino concluded. “Indeed, in addition to protecting himself, the officer’s interventions are likely responsible for preventing the Complainant from having killed[two civilian witnesses]. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with charges in this case and the file is closed.”

Following the investigation into the events of Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, the officer in question was nominated for the 2020 Police Services Hero of the Year award as a result of his life-saving actions that day.

To read the full report from the SIU on this incident, click here.

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