CALGARY — The parents of a man shot dead by police have lost a bid for a judicial review of a decision not to lay charges.
Anthony Heffernan was holding a syringe and a lighter when a Calgary officer shot him four times — twice in the head — in a hotel room in March 2015. Police had been called in after the 27-year-old failed to check out of his room.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team initially found there were grounds to charge the officer with a criminal offence.
The Crown later determined a conviction was unlikely and no charges would be laid.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Henderson dismissed the application of Pat and Irene Heffernan for a review. The judge said there was no evidence suggesting an abuse of process by the Crown.
“The applicants have understandably suffered a significant loss and nothing in this decision is intended to minimize the extent of their grief,” Henderson said in a written decision this week.
“The Crown’s decision deserves deference. A reviewing court is specifically prohibited from micro-managing or second-guessing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”
The parents’ lawyer Tom Engel said Wednesday that he won’t be appealing the decision.
They will wait and see what happens with the police force’s internal disciplinary process, as well as a fatality inquiry. The family has also filed a civil suit.
“If new evidence comes out of these processes in the future, we can always go back and try again to see if we can get a judge to review the Crown’s decision not to prosecute,” Engel said.
“The Heffernans are determined to ensure that these officers are held accountable.”
Heffernan appeared to be in a drug-induced state when officers arrived that day and he refused demands to drop the syringe.
One officer fired a Taser at Heffernan but it didn’t work. A second officer was preparing to hit Heffernan again with the stun gun, when another officer fired his gun six times.
Four bullets struck Heffernan, one hit a wall and one hit the floor.
The serious incident response team reported that the syringe — without a needle tip — was recovered from underneath Heffernan’s body. An autopsy found marks consistent with a history of intravenous drug use and toxicology tests revealed cocaine in his system.
His family had argued that the officer fired recklessly and wildly. They also pointed out that four other officers in the room did not find it necessary to use lethal force.
The Crown told the court that it had considered all evidence in the shooting, including that Heffernan was agitated and had moved quickly at the officers. The Crown also said it was reasonable for officers to believe a needle was attached to the syringe and could have caused serious injury.
The force last May, after six fatal police shootings over two years, announced an independent review of its use of lethal force.