Haki Sefa was believed to be on his way to harm a person he thought had sexually assaulted a family member when he was shot dead by police Sunday night, the Free Press has learned.

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Haki Sefa was believed to be on his way to harm a person he thought had sexually assaulted a family member when he was shot dead by police Sunday night, the Free Press has learned.

Sefa, 44, died Sunday night after a standoff with Winnipeg police officers on Highway 59, just north of the city.

Multiple sources told the Free Press that Sefa was headed toward the vicinity of Birds Hill Park armed with a gun. The man’s family had called police earlier in the night expressing concern about his well-being and that of others, sources said.

Haki Sefa

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Haki Sefa

Members of the Tactical Support Team spotted Sefa’s white utility van just within city limits and began following him. The incident culminated in a high-risk takedown on Highway 59 just north of Highway 44 around 10:30 p.m. Sunday. At that point, the man is alleged to have exited his vehicle with a gun.

"He was certainly waving his weapon around. Our guys had no choice to shoot. Was it suicide by cop? Who knows," a source told the Free Press on Monday afternoon.

Officers performed CPR at the scene but the man was pronounced dead.

The province’s Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) is now investigating the man’s death, the first officer-involved fatality since the unit was formed in June.

Sefa, a father of four, ran a plumbing and heating services company.

"He was a great person. Everybody loved Haki. He was a good uncle and a very good father and husband, and a good friend. We’re all going to miss him lots," said Sherri Chartrand, Haki’s former sister-in-law.

Chartrand said Sefa hadn’t been the same since the death of her daughter Breanna Kannick — his niece, whom he helped raise.

Kannick, 21, died on Aug. 20 in a Regina jail cell from an apparent drug withdrawal. Sefa and Chartrand’s sister looked after Kannick for a couple of years during her childhood, Chartrand said.

"I know he was depressed over Breanna’s death and the way it had happened," she said. "I know ever since then he hasn’t been the same. He’s very quiet and he looks very sad ever since her death."

Her daughter was close to Sefa and the family stayed in touch, Chartrand said, recalling how Sefa bought Kannick a prom dress and accessories when she couldn’t afford it.

"And she didn’t have a prom date and he took her to her prom. He was a person who did stuff like that," she said.

Sefa was married to Chartrand’s sister, Lisa Sefa, but the pair divorced.

Sefa had little to say during a brief telephone interview Monday. "I’m not doing well," she said.

Sefa’s ex-wife saw police chasing his white utility van Sunday and followed them in her vehicle, witnessing some of the incident, Chartrand said.

"She’s a mess. She’s more worried about her kids than anything," Chartrand said.

Officers involved were 'very experienced': union

The officers involved in the incident were experienced and well-trained, Winnipeg Police Association vice-president George Van Mackelbergh said.

"As tragic as it is, it’s in the course of their duties and I’m very confident that our members have acted in the manner in which they’re trained. These are all very experienced officers," he said.

"The Winnipeg Police Service has very good use-of-force training to all officers when they come on this job and there’s refreshers every year. In this case, these officers are very experienced, and ultimately, often the offender creates the choice and there is no other choice."

The police association is supporting the officers involved and making sure their rights are protected during the review process. The officers will be given an opportunity to see a counsellor.

"When you act in a justified manner with these kind of consequences, you’d have to be a robot for it not to affect you in some way. And our members aren’t robots," Van Mackelbergh said.

No timeline yet for IIU review

The Winnipeg Police Service said Monday it won’t comment on the shooting while it is under review.

The RCMP gathers evidence at the scene of a police shooting on Highway 59 at Kirkness Road Monday morning.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The RCMP gathers evidence at the scene of a police shooting on Highway 59 at Kirkness Road Monday morning.

Highway 59 remained closed from Highway 44 to Goodman Drive during much of Monday. Black unmarked police vehicles could be seen boxing in the man’s white van in one of the highway’s northbound lanes. The van’s passenger-side window appeared to be shattered.

Police forensics experts went over the scene, laying small markers near what looked to be a handgun on the road and a pair of eyeglasses.

Zane Tessler, civilian director for the IIU, said he couldn’t release many details about the shooting, including whether the man was armed.

"It’s still very early in the process. We’re working diligently to deal with this matter as expeditiously as possible, but we want to be thorough as well," he said.

Executive members of the Winnipeg Police Service contacted the eight-member independent investigation unit around 11:25 p.m. Sunday, Tessler said, but he couldn’t say what type of call the police had been investigating at the time of the shooting or how many officers were involved.

"The next step is for our investigators to do their job, gather all of the available evidence, process it, review it and make a decision on what, if anything, arises from that evidence," Tessler said.

There is no timeline for when the review is expected to be complete.

The IIU was formed to investigate cases in which civilians are hurt or killed by police officers and was officially put in place this summer. This is the first fatal police shooting it has been tasked with investigating.

"Our officers have been diligently training and preparing for all circumstances as they may arise, so we’ve been ready for this type of matter for some time," Tessler said.

Dozen police cars on scene

Just up the road from the shooting scene, a house full of people who got little sleep described the commotion on the highway.

More than a dozen police vehicles racing to the scene from the north and the south with their sirens screaming alarmed Anetta Fatla’s family and guests.

She said there were more sirens than they’re used to for a typical highway accident. "It was different," she said on the porch of her home in the light of day.

They heard a growing stream of sirens rushing to an intersection nearby and had no idea why.

"We didn’t hear anything like a crash," said Marta Janusz, who’s staying at the home of her best friend, Fatla. Fatla’s husband and family were roused from their beds by the unusual highway commotion.

Then they heard four or five gunshots, Fatla said.

"I thought maybe I’m dreaming," said Janusz. They went to the window to see what was happening.

They were scared to go outside, worried it might not be safe, that perhaps the major police presence was in response to a prison escape from Stony Mountain.

Through binoculars, one of the children counted the police vehicles and their flashing lights at the scene.

"It was a huge line — 15 or 18 police vehicles," said Janusz.

An ambulance arrived on the scene and did not turn its siren on, the women said.

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