WINNIPEG — Officers “feared for their lives” when they shot at a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly driving a stolen vehicle down a busy Winnipeg street in the middle of the day, a police spokesman says.
“The driver proceeded to accelerate the vehicle at a high rate of speed towards officers,” Const. Jason Michalyshyn told a news conference Tuesday.
“I think it’s safe to say that at that point, officers feared for their lives, they feared for the safety and the lives of other individuals in that area, and a firearm discharge took place.”
Winnipeg is a city accustomed to news of young car thieves. The Manitoba capital routinely posts a higher per-capita auto theft rate than all other big cities in Statistics Canada annual reports.
But Monday’s midday shooting on Portage Avenue, one of the Winnipeg’s biggest thoroughfares, was more violent than most.
Police say they spotted a car that had been reported stolen late Monday morning just west of the downtown area. When police vehicles tried to block the car a few minutes later, the driver drove right at one cruiser, Michalyshyn said.
At least one shot was fired by police — Michalyshyn would not say Tuesday whether there were more — and the driver was hit by bullet fragments. He was treated in hospital and released to police later the same day. The car collided with another vehicle. No bystanders were hurt.
The boy was charged Tuesday with several offences including theft, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, assault with a weapon (the car), and failing to comply with a sentence. Two other boys who police say were passengers have been charged with possessing property obtained by crime.
Although the boy was not on a list of chronic car thieves routinely monitored by justice officials, he does have a “substantial criminal past” including property-related crimes and was on probation, Michalyshyn said.
There was also an earlier driving offence, he added.
“It appears that he has had an offence in the past with regard to driving a motor vehicle while under the age of 16.”