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Halifax police officers who shot man armed with bow and arrow cleared of wrongdoing

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HALIFAX -

Two Halifax police officers who fatally shot a man who pointed a fully drawn bow and arrow at them have been cleared of any wrongdoing by Nova Scotia's police watchdog.

The Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) released a report Thursday that concluded the two Halifax Regional Police officers were defending themselves and others from a perceived threat when they both fired their guns on May 27, hitting the suspect in the upper body.

The independent agency says the officers, both members of an emergency response team, had been dispatched at 9 a.m. to Maybank Park, in Dartmouth, where they and other officers repeatedly told the man to drop the weapon.

The report says the suspect, who had struggled with mental illness and homelessness, was in a gravel parking lot near two parks with baseball diamonds and soccer fields as families were showing up on a Saturday morning.

"There were people playing at the soccer fields and a big event was being held at a nearby elementary school," the report says.

The first officer on the scene told SIRT investigators that as he approached in his vehicle, the man pointed the bow and arrow directly at him then withdrew. During his interaction with police, the man spent most of his time shielding himself behind a vehicle as he held the bow and arrow, the report says.

SIRT investigators learned that police at the scene had a so-called pepper-ball launcher and an ARWEN 37, both of which are weapons used to fire less-lethal projectiles. Officers at the scene discussed using these weapons to subdue the man, but that option was complicated by the suspect's covered position, the report says.

One witness told SIRT that when more police vehicles arrived, and officers repeatedly asked the man to drop the weapon, he did not respond.

"(The witness) noticed that police made multiple similar commands, but the (man) did not respond and had a smile on his face," the report says.

At one point, one of the officers saw the man "step out again, draw the bow string back quickly and aim at his team." That's when the two officers fired their weapons.

"Alternative options were not employed as they would not have been effective" the report says, though investigators confirmed that one officer fired the ARWEN 37 as the other two officers opened fire.

Aside from taking statements from the 37 police officers involved, investigators also interviewed 11 civilian witnesses and reviewed photos and video recordings of the incident. A photo from one witness shows the man's "bow and arrow fully drawn" before the shooting, the report says.

Erin Nauss, head of the Serious Incident Response Team, said in the report that she could find no reasonable grounds to believe the officers committed a criminal offence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2023.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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