CALGARY — The Crown has decided that a Calgary officer who fatally shot an addict holding a syringe in a hotel room will not be charged with a criminal offence.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says in a release that it initially recommended the officer be charged in the March 2015 death of Anthony Heffernan.
But the police watchdog unit says the Crown’s office requested an expert opinion on use of force, and it showed the shooting could be justified.
It says the Crown determined there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction in the case and no charges will be laid.
Heffernan, who was 27, was shot four times — twice in the head — in his room at a Super 8 hotel near the city’s airport.
His family has said the recovering drug addict wasn’t posing a threat to anyone and officers didn’t need to go into his room.
“He was not causing a disturbance,” says a post on the website Truth and Justice for Anthony.
“So why on a wellness check did five armed police officers break down his door, Taser and then shoot him when he was unarmed?”
ASIRT says hotel staff had called police when Heffernan failed to check out of his room and, when officers arrived, they found him holding a syringe in one hand and flicking a lighter with the other.
He was unresponsive and appeared to be in a drug-induced state.
“All of the witness officers stated concerns about the possibility that the syringe might be contaminated and that they might get stabbed or stuck by it,” ASIRT says in the release.
“Although the officers commanded him to drop the syringe, he remained unresponsive, non-communicative, and seemingly unaware.”
One police officer fired a Taser at Heffernan but it didn’t work. As a second officer was preparing to hit Heffernan again with a Taser, another officer fired his gun six times.
“The subject officer made a quick decision in a volatile and rapidly unfolding situation to use his service firearm in order to defend against Mr. Heffernan,” says a statement from the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.
“The evidence would be that he did so as a defensive action against an individual who was armed with a syringe, and who had been either unwilling or unable to comply with police directions. In all of these circumstances, it could not be disproven that the subject officer acted upon a reasonable belief that he and the other officers were at risk of serious or grievous bodily harm, and that his use of force was necessary.”