Calgary cop not at fault for shooting man pointing sawed-off shotgun

A Calgary police officer will not face charges for killing a man who took his teenage neighbour hostage at gunpoint and then pointed a sawed-off shotgun at police.

CALGARY — A Calgary police officer will not face charges for killing a man who took his teenage neighbour hostage at gunpoint and then pointed a sawed-off shotgun at police.

The tactical officer made the right decision to shoot Melvin Vanhouwe three times last spring, Clifton Purvis, head of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, said Monday.

Vanhouwe was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant at the time and was in possession of more than a dozen guns despite a weapons prohibition, he said.

Police were first tipped off when the 19-year-old hostage managed to send text messages to a friend pleading for help shortly after midnight on May 24, Purvis said.

Officers surrounded the house and continued to communicate with the hostage through his friend’s phone as they waited for a negotiator to arrive. About an hour after police set up, the hostage managed to flee to safety.

“Forty-one seconds later, Mr. Vanhouwe exited the location and was challenged by police,” said Purvis.

“Police used the words, ’City police. Show me your hands.’ At that point, Mr. Vanhouwe raised the shotgun he was holding, pointing the muzzle towards a member of the Calgary police tactical team.”

He was shot three times and dropped the shotgun, which was later found to have been sawed off and modified to hold extra bullets. It was loaded.

The medical examiner found that Vanhouwe’s blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit at the time of his death. A search of his house turned up 13 more guns, as well as ammunition and flares.

“It is unclear what Mr. Vanhouwe’s motivation was in taking a hostage,” said Purvis.

“However, in reviewing the actions of the Calgary Police Service tactical member, I am satisfied and I have determined that he was justified in shooting Mr. Vanhouwe in all of the circumstances.”