Calgary police chief vigorously defends officer who shot man with screwdriver

A police chief is backing an officer who shot and killed a man armed with a screwdriver, saying the public wouldn’t want to see a member of the force turn and run “like a scared rabbit.”

CALGARY — A police chief is backing an officer who shot and killed a man armed with a screwdriver, saying the public wouldn’t want to see a member of the force turn and run “like a scared rabbit.”

The man, believed to be in his late 30s, was being chased by the officer on foot in a northeast Calgary neighbourhood early Thursday when he was shot in a backyard.

The 10-year veteran and member of the tactical team fired more than once when the man threatened him and then “aggressively” approached with a screwdriver in his hand, said police Chief Rick Hanson.

“Screwdrivers will kill you just as quickly as a knife,” he said at a news conference.

“It’s pitch dark. He’s between two houses. He doesn’t know where the individual went. The suspect made a conscious decision to confront the officer in a way that clearly articulated a decision to do the officer harm.

“I can’t think of anybody in this city who would say the police officer should have turned on his tail and ran like a scared rabbit. The reality is these are dangerous people who commit mayhem and havoc in this city and their intention is to do harm.”

Hanson said police became aware of two stolen trucks that were being driven erratically in north Calgary. There were reports they were speeding the wrong way on a major road.

There was no pursuit, but a police helicopter kept the trucks under surveillance until a spike belt was laid down. It managed to stop one of the vehicles. Two people jumped into the other truck and fled.

Hanson said two passengers, a male and female, were dropped off and ran in separate directions. The truck was eventually corralled by police vehicles and officers removed the driver with the help of a police dog and a weapon that fires rubber discs.

The backyard shooting happened while officers were searching for the couple. The woman was arrested without incident, but the policeman involved in the shooting had to make a split-second decision when it came to the male, the chief said.

Hanson said the motive behind the joyride is unclear, but he noted the size of the trucks — Ford F-250s and F-350s.

“Those vehicles are generally stolen because they are used as weapons,” Hanson said. “They are used to cause destruction. They’re very difficult for police vehicles or officers to disable.”

The shooting is under investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which reviews encounters involving police that result in serious injury or death.