Clifton Purvis, Executive Director of ASIRT talks to media, April 30, 2012 in regards to the shooting death by the Calgary Police Service.
Credits: STUART DRYDEN/CALGARY SUN/QMI AGENCY
CALGARY -- Two Calgary cops acted in self defence when they fired six shots in less than two seconds at a man holding an axe, an investigation has ruled.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which investigates police-involved shootings, found the officers who went to a Citadel home Oct. 20, 2011 were justified in their actions.
Police were responding to a 911 call of a person acting aggressively. The 911 operator learned the man in question, who suffered from mental illness and had stopped taking medication, threatened to get a knife, said Clifton Purvis, ASIRT’s executive director.
The officers arrived at the home about 10 p.m.
Before they could knock, Peter Spiewak opened the door and emerged with an axe, ASIRT’s investigation found.
A number of Spiewak’s family members were present.
One officer, a 35-year-old man with three years experience with the Calgary Police Service and an additional 12 years served in the U.K., was standing just feet from Spiewak.
He retreated backward and tripped, hitting his head and suffering minor injuries.
As he fell he fired one shot, which did not strike Spiewak, but the officer’s partner, a 25-year-old man with two years experience who was standing nearby, fired five shots, some of which struck and ultimately killed Spiewak.
“This incident developed and was over very quickly,” said Purvis, adding all six shots were fired in 1.8 seconds -- investigators confirmed that through 911 information, as one of Spiewak’s family members was still on the line when the shooting took place.
Spiewak was not ordered to drop the axe before he was shot, Purvis said.
No criminal charges will be laid against the officers.
“The individual opened the door, came at them with an axe, was feet away from the person with an axe in his hands when he was shot -- I deemed that that was acting in self defence,” Purvis said.
A family friend spoke out on behalf of the deceased’s family just days after the incident, saying they regretted calling 911 after a dispute broke out that evening, agitating Spiewak.
“The family is pretty angry at how cops dealt with it,” Ryan Smith said last year.
“They were yelling at cops to stop shooting while Peter was already on the ground.
“He wasn’t a maniac wielding an axe. He was no threat to anybody and made no intention to go towards the officer.
“He was surrounded by family, how threatening are you when you have your whole family standing beside you?”