January 21, 2020

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Youth shot by officer goes from hospital to youth centre facing robbery, weapon charges

The armed 16-year-old boy gunned down by police in a dramatic, bloody scene outside a West End convenience store last month has been released from hospital and charged with robbery and possession of a weapon.

The Winnipeg Police Service announced the charges Monday. Since the suspect is a minor, his name is not being released. He’s been detained at the Manitoba Youth Centre.

WPS in-custody deaths

Click to Expand

2015 – 0
2016 – 1
2017 – 3
2018 – 2
2019 – 6

WPS FATAL SHOOTINGS
2015 – 2
2016 – 0
2017 – 2
2018 – 0
2019 – 2

WPS NON-FATAL SHOOTINGS
2015 – 0
2016 – 0
2017 – 3
2018 – 2
2019 – 4

Source: Independent Investigative Unit of Manitoba

The shooting — which is being investigated by Manitoba’s police watchdog — was documented from multiple angles by onlookers, who quickly posted the graphic videos to social media, sparking a local debate on police use-of-force tactics and training.

While much attention has been paid to Winnipeg’s record-tying homicide total in 2019, less scrutiny has been given to the fact it’s also been a particularly bloody year for suspects killed or seriously injured by police.

The WPS has shot six people — two of them fatally — in 2019, according to Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba statistics. It is the highest number of police shootings on record since the IIU went operational in 2015.

Six other people have died while in WPS custody, double the previous highest number of in-custody deaths the IIU has recorded for the WPS in a calendar year.

In total, eight people have died during, or following, altercations with Winnipeg police in 2019. The previous record came in 2017, when there were three in-custody deaths and two fatal police shootings.

An additional 12 people have been sent to hospital with serious, non-fatal injuries, according to IIU press releases, including punctured lungs and lacerations, broken bones and ribs, a fractured skull and bullet wounds.

The decision to shoot the teenage suspect has been criticized by some local activists and academics. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

The decision to shoot the teenage suspect has been criticized by some local activists and academics. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

However, the IIU statistics do not line up with those presented by WPS Chief Danny Smyth to the Winnipeg Police Board last week. Smyth told board members there had been seven "officer-involved shootings" and "two in-custody deaths" in 2019.

The IIU said in a written statement that the definitions it uses for tracking these incidents may differ from those used by law enforcement. When reached for comment, a WPS spokesman said it’s important to note not all in-custody deaths follow a physical altercation with police.

It has also been a busy year for the police behavioural health unit. Last week, Smyth said the force's two full-time wellness officers have done 137 check-ins in 2019.

In addition, members have made 834 trips to WPS psychologists.

The latest police shooting occurred in the evening on Nov. 21 when officers were called to the scene of a reported armed robbery in progress at the 7-Eleven at the corner of Ellice Avenue and Arlington Street.

Video footage shows the teenage suspect leave the store wielding what appears to be a machete as he approaches an officer. The officer fires nine rounds from service pistol, repeatedly hitting the boy. It is the first time this year police have shot a minor.

"Every officer knows once you get hired on that that’s something you may have to face. If you’re not prepared to face that, you’re in the wrong career. But everybody hopes it never happens. It is the worst decision that we ask any human being to make," WPS spokesman Const. Rob Carver said.

"The person we’re dealing with, their actions and the weapons they have determine our actions."

However, the decision to shoot the teenage suspect has been criticized by some local activists and academics, who have argued that police — by design — escalate the situations they’re called to. They've argued the responding officers should have employed tactics to de-escalate the volatile situation.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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