A citizen's alert about a suspicious stranger lurking near a Winnipeg gas station was the backdrop to a potentially lethal police-involved shooting, the Free Press has learned.
A 21-year-old man remains in hospital under police guard after being shot in the arm by an officer just after 9:20 p.m. Thursday at the Domo on Wardlaw Avenue at Donald Street. He underwent surgery to remove the bullet Friday afternoon and is in stable condition.
The Free Press has learned the identity of the accused but isn't publishing his name until formal charges are laid.
The entire incident was captured on high-definition surveillance video. Police are now reviewing the tape and all the circumstances surrounding the incident. That includes interviewing the Domo employee about what occurred.
"The important thing is the team member was unharmed," Domo chairman Douglas Everett told the Free Press Friday. He credited the police for their quick response and the employee for remaining calm.
"It seems like the team member followed all safety procedures," said Everett.
Minutes before the suspect was shot, patrol cars were dispatched to the scene to check on a report of a person in dark clothing who appeared to be skulking about at a nearby strip mall, police sources said. When officers arrived on the scene, they encountered an armed man who appeared to be in the process of robbing the young male clerk. The man turned toward the two officers and refused to comply with commands to drop the knife he was holding, a source said. He was shot once in the vicinity of the Domo kiosk. A large number of police units then rushed to the scene after the "shots fired" alarm was sounded.
Everett said the entire incident -- from the start of the robbery to police shooting the suspect -- took less than two minutes. He believes police caught the suspected robber by surprise, as the man likely thought he had more time to get his cash and make a getaway.
Officially, police are saying little about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation and a desire to protect the integrity of future witness statements.
"We're in a bit of a grey area here with respect to what happened," police spokeswoman Det. Sgt. Natalie Aitken said of the inability to publicly disclose details.
Police aren't saying how many shots were fired. The officers involved have more than 10 years' experience on the job, Aitken said.
The homicide unit is tasked with probing officer-involved shootings and their findings will be subject to a review.
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave and will be offered counselling. A fitness assessment will also be done prior to their return to active duty.
"These things can be pretty traumatic when someone is trying to hurt you, so it's to make sure that everything is OK," a senior police source said.
The man whom police shot has a lengthy history of involvement with police despite his young age. In November 2013, he was sentenced for possession of methamphetamine while already serving a year in custody for stabbing a stranger at a decrepit party house on Magnus Avenue.
"I know I need to straighten my life and I'm going to try to do my best to seek the help that I need," he told Judge Anne Krahn.
Court heard in June 2012 his younger brother was being attacked over a T-shirt by a larger and older man who had recently left prison. He picked a kitchen knife up off the floor and stabbed the man once in the back to stop the assault on his brother and fled, his lawyer said.
"He simply wanted to stop the beating and get out of there, and that's what he did," James Wood told court.
He and his brother were abandoned by their mother as teens, court was told.
Since November 2005, police have publicly reported 13 robberies of the same gas bar, but the number is likely higher. Virtually all of the robberies involved a male suspect who was armed with a knife and looking to steal cash and cigarettes. In most cases, the suspects would mask their faces in some fashion.
Everett said upgrades to their security and video systems, along with better training, have reduced Domo robberies in Winnipeg "by more than half" in recent years.