December 10, 2019

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Police 'justified' in shooting driver who led officers on city chase

A 24-year-old man who was shot and killed by Winnipeg police in an apparent suicide-by-cop standoff was warned 33 times to drop his weapon as he led officers on a 22-kilometre chase, according to a 911 call that helped investigators determine no criminal charges should be laid against the police officers who fired the fatal shots.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Director Zane Tessler with the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba said "It was reasonable, in these circumstances, for the subject officers to fire at the affected person to prevent the death of any of them.”</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Director Zane Tessler with the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba said "It was reasonable, in these circumstances, for the subject officers to fire at the affected person to prevent the death of any of them.”

Mark Dicesare was shot nine times by five police officers – three of whom were part of the specially trained tactical unit – after he lowered a gun from his chin and aimed it at the 25 officers surrounding him in the middle of a busy intersection on the afternoon of Nov. 6, 2015.

"I guess I should just go down in Winnipeg history," Dicesare told police during a 32-minute conversation captured by 911 dispatchers that ended when he got out of his car and was shot at Grant Avenue and Kenaston Boulevard near the Kapyong Barracks site. "I’m sorry I have to do this to you guys. Please shoot me in the head and make it quick."

Dicesare had just had a fight with his girlfriend, had been drinking and using drugs and was struggling with depression as he pointed what looked like an Uzi submachine gun. It turned out to be an unloaded BB gun, but dozens of police officers who responded to the scene – surrounding him in up to 19 cruiser cars — didn’t know that at the time.

Fifteen months later, Manitoba’s Independent Investigation Unit released its final report on the shooting Thursday, deciding the officers won’t face criminal charges because they had no choice but to shoot Dicesare, IIU civilian director Zane Tessler said during a news conference.

The IIU is tasked with reviewing all serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba, and its findings in this case — the most extensive investigation since the IIU was formed in June 2015 — were sent to the Manitoba Prosecution Service for review before coming to the conclusion not to lay charges.

"We have determined in our investigation that Winnipeg Police Service members used every means available to them to try and have a peaceful resolution to this matter. It’s unfortunate that it ended in the fashion that it did," Tessler said, adding Dicesare – whom the IIU did not refer to by name – was "intent on taking his own life."

"This is an unfortunate yet all-too-familiar situation that we’ve seen across Canada and the United States. This matter is indeed a tragedy. A young life was lost, family and close friends have been left to grieve and involved officers will inevitably relive this event time and time again," Tessler said.

The IIU’s investigation found Discesare had been laid off from his job in Alberta seven months before his death and had returned to Winnipeg, where he amassed debt and sparked concern among his family and friends about his "bouts of depression and mental-health issues," the report says.

He had a fight with his girlfriend the night before the shooting — over money he had taken from her, a friend previously told the Free Press – and the next morning he went to a friend’s house and demanded the BB gun, threatening to commit robbery to pay back his girlfriend and then kill himself.

About an hour later, 911 calls started coming in from other drivers who saw Dicesare’s white Audi speeding and running red lights. Around 12:21 p.m., he drove up to a WPS school liaison officer on Oakdale Street in Charleswood, rolled down his window and pointed his gun at her. A police pursuit began. He also phoned his girlfriend, saying "this was going to be the last time he could talk to her," according to the report. His girlfriend then called police and told them about his mental-health issues, drug use and financial concerns – information that was broadcast over police radio as officers followed him and tried to get him to stop.

At 12:41 p.m., Dicesare called 911, and talked to dispatchers for a few minutes. Later, after police put down road spikes and surrounded him in a field near Kapyong Barracks, he threw his cellphone out the car window without hanging up. The open phone line allowed IIU investigators to piece together what happened during a 23-minute standoff with police, Tessler said. The audio from the call was enhanced by a professional production company to allow investigators to hear conversations between Dicesare and police in the moments before the shooting, the report says. Discesare was asked 33 times by officers and 911 dispatchers to surrender his weapon and get out of the car. The IIU also interviewed more than 130 witnesses – 96 civilians and 38 police officers – and reviewed half a dozen cellphone videos of the scene, none of which captured the shooting. Investigators found 15 shell casings at the scene, where many people nearby were "at potential risk," Tessler said.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Winnipeg police surround the vehicle in a field at the corner of Grant Avenue and Kenaston Boulevard in November 2015. </p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg police surround the vehicle in a field at the corner of Grant Avenue and Kenaston Boulevard in November 2015.

Dicesare’s family hasn’t spoken publicly about his death. In an Instagram post on the one-year anniversary of his death, his girlfriend posted a photo of a smiling Dicesare with the caption "It's been one year since this beautiful soul went to heaven. I think about you every single day and miss you more than I could've ever imagined possible. I'm so thankful to have such amazing friends and family who have helped me through the worst year of my life. I love you so much Marky and I always will. I can't wait to see you again one day, rest in peace my angel."

Tessler said he spoke to the family about the IIU’s decision not to lay criminal charges against the officers who shot Dicesare.

"They understand what happened. They hold no grudges or blame on police for what transpired and understand that the circumstance that was created were such that left little options to the police, and they should be allowed time to grieve," he said.

A mandatory inquest has been called to find out whether anything could have been done differently to prevent Dicesare’s death. That process means the officers involved in the shooting won’t be able to move on anytime soon, said Winnipeg Police Association president Maurice Sabourin.

"This type of an incident is now going to continue to loom over their heads for an extended period of time until it can be looked at in front of the courts," he said.

"They cope as best they can, but there’s obviously going to be triggers — there usually is with any kind of a traumatic incident such as this — that will bring those memories flooding back. Like I said, no officer wants to take another person’s life but when you’re presented with a threat (to your life or another person’s life) you have to take the action that you have to take," he said.

Sabourin said Winnipeg Police Service officers do receive "extensive mental-health training" and mandatory refresher courses that teach them how to deal with mentally-ill individuals.

"But I think at the end of the day, safety has to rule the end result," Sabourin said, emphasizing officers tried to "talk him down" for 23 minutes during their standoff with Dicesare.

"But I think at the end of the day, safety has to rule the end result," Sabourin said, emphasizing officers tried to "talk him down" for 23 minutes during their standoff with Dicesare.

Dicesare’s death is just one case of so-called suicide by cop in recent years in Winnipeg.
Less than two months before his death, 44-year-old Haki Sefa was also shot and killed by Winnipeg police after he pointed a gun at officers following a car chase outside city limits.

An inquest is upcoming in Sefa's death. A recently concluded inquest into the August 2008 death of 26-year-old Craig McDougall also heard evidence of a suicide-by-cop scenario in which McDougall refused to drop the knife he was holding before he was shot by police.

In December 2005, police were responding to a domestic violence report involving 34-year-old Howard Fleury when he asked an officer "Have you ever heard of suicide by cop?" as he advanced with a knife. An inquest into his police-shooting death didn't result in any recommendations. All of those individuals were identified as dealing with mental-health issues.

Sabourin said he knows of at least three or four similar incidents over the past few years that ended without lethal force, largely because police weren’t faced with a firearm in those cases.

"People get the idea when they see it in the media that if they can’t take their own life, that this is a way that they’re going to try," he said.

"I don’t think it’s a hugely emerging trend, but it is a concern and there is training that is provided for it, but you have to keep in mind that at the end of the day… what we get across to most officers is going home safe at the end of the day is the most important thing."

In a statement, Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth said he’s reviewing the IIU’s 41-page report on the incident.

"I want to acknowledge the challenging situation our officers and support staff found themselves in during this traumatic incident. No member of the Winnipeg Police Service wants to be confronted with such a violent situation, and no member would ever take lightly the burden of having to take another life. I appreciate the job done by our officers to limit further injury. I also want to extend my sympathies to the family of the young man who lost his life. I would also like to acknowledge the impact this had on our community, and assure the public that their safety is always the most important consideration for our officers," he said.

 

Some key events

 

  •  

    April 2015

    INSTAGRAM</p><p>Mark DiCesare </p>

    INSTAGRAM

    Mark DiCesare

    Dicesare is laid off from his job in Alberta, moves back to Winnipeg.

  •  

    Nov. 5, 2016

    Dicesare drinks approximately six beers and snorts five or six lines of cocaine at a friend’s house. He admits to a friend he had a problem with cocaine and wants to seek help.

     

  •  

    Nov. 5, 11 p.m.

    Dicesare leaves his friend’s house to see his girlfriend, who describes him as "... anxious, on edge and not happy at all" when they meet. The evening ends in a verbal fight and he eventually leaves.

  •  

    Nov. 6, 9:30 a.m.

    Dicesare, emotionally unstable, returns to his friend’s house where he’d been drinking the night before and demands a BB gun that looks like an Uzi submachine gun hidden under a bed. He declares he’s going to rob two people to get money owed to his girlfriend. He says he also plans to drive his car into a tractor trailer. Before he leaves his friend’s place, Dicesare kisses his friend on the cheek, tells him he loves him and whistles as he walks away.

  •  

    Nov. 6 12:20 p.m.

    After witnesses report erratic driving, Dicesare's Audi is seen speeding on and off the sidewalk on the west side of Kenaston. Pursuit begins after Dicesare drives towards a police cruiser, and points a gun at the cop driving a vehicle on Oakdale Street in Charleswood. The police officer follows the Audi without sirens or lights and loses sight of the Audi.

  •  

    12:28 p.m.

    Dicesare drives past his girlfriend’s home, speaks with her and family members out of the window while driving slowly. He takes off and his girlfriend called 911.

  •  

    12:29 p.m.

    The Audi is spotted by police travelling northbound on Waverley at Buffalo Place. Police lose sight of Dicesare again. Dicesare records a video on his phone in his car. He stated in the video: "Hey guys, I just want to let you guys know before I go, I um, I had a good life OK? I had fun, I uh ... I’m so sorry guys ... Well guys ..." He’s very emotional during this clip, ranging from sobbing to whistling.

  •  

    12:40 p.m.

    On Grant Avenue, a police car begins chase with emergency equipment activated. the Audi was travelling between 80 and 100 km/h.

  •  

    12:41 p.m.

    Dicesare calls 911, remains on the line for 32 minutes, yelling at officers and talking to the operator.

  •  

    12:45 p.m.

    By this time, about eight police cars are chasing Dicesare. At several points during the chase, he's seen pointing the firearm out of the car window. After the Audi was pinned near the corner of Willow and Doncaster, officers converge. One officer is close to shooting Dicesare right there, but civilians are exiting the nearby Rady Jewish Community Centre and are in the line of fire. Dicesare frees the Audi and takes off.
    At the intersection of Tuxedo at Kenaston , The Audi crashes into the rear of a vehicle, driven by a man taking his two children to school. Dicesare doesn’t stop. Around this time, Dicesare leads police down southbound Kenaston, driving towards a crossing guard and two children. The crossing guard pulls the children from the road as the chase speeds passed.

  •  

    12:49 p.m.

    A police cruiser tries and fails to force the Audi off the road. Dicesare turns into a grass field and loses speed. A cruiser pulls ahead, turns around and drives into the front of the Audi. Police cars converge to pin the vehicle.

  •  

    12:50 to 1:13 p.m

    A frame capture from a video of Mark Dicesare holding his firearm.</p>

    A frame capture from a video of Mark Dicesare holding his firearm.

    During a standoff, Dicesare is moving erratically inside the car, pointing the the Uzi-looking gun to his chin and opening and closing windows. "Stop. Stop. Stop. Away. Everyone away. Stop it. Stop it. I'm going to kill myself," he’s heard saying. "I'm not going to harm you guys. Stop it." "I’ll blow my head off." "Can I go out in Winnipeg history or what? - I'm gonna make you guys do it for me, okay?" After Dicesare exited the vehicle with a firearm pointed under his chin, five officers fired and killed Dicesare.

  •  

 

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History

Updated on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 11:36 AM CST: Photos changed.

11:41 AM: Pdf added.

11:55 AM: Full report added.

12:04 PM: Changes head, content

12:36 PM: Photos added.

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