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Police had to shoot emotionally disturbed man, inquest told

10/24/2013 11:59 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
A Toronto police officer who was present at the scene of the shooting of Reyal Jardine-Douglas three years ago, told a coroner’s inquest Thursday that his partner had no choice but to shoot the emotionally disturbed man.

"He was gonna kill my partner," Ehsan Haghshenas said, as he recounted the call from August 29, 2010.

Haghshenas was responding to a 911 call that indicated Jardine-Douglas, a 25-year-old man suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, had boarded a bus and was possibly emotionally disturbed. The officer testified his goal was to assess him and possibly get him to a hospital or apprehend him under the Mental Health Act.

"We knew there was some mental health issues possible, and we were going to assess it and decide what actions to take based on the assessment."

The inquest heard audio from police dispatch that day. The dispatcher tells officers that Jardine-Douglas had been extremely agitated lately and wasn’t on any medication. Police were also warned to use caution that Jardine-Douglas may be unpredictable and could possibly be armed.

Const. Kyle Paterson also responded to the call that day. He would end up firing the fatal shots that killed Jardine-Douglas.

Haghshenas testified that when he reached the bus, Paterson had already boarded, asking Jardine-Douglas to drop the knife.

Haghshenas testified that Jardine-Douglas immediately came towards the officers with a ceramic knife in his hand forcing them off the bus and that’s when they drew their weapons.

Haghshenas testified that Jardine-Douglas first turned to the back of the bus where he had gone, but then moved in the opposite direction, towards Paterson.

"At that point [Jardine-Douglas] didn’t have any emotion on his face, he just looked at me distinctively and then turned his whole attention to Constable Paterson," Haghshenas said.

Events unfolded quickly

From there Haghshenas said events transpired quickly. Jardine-Douglas moved towards Paterson as the officer backed up. Eventually, Paterson was up against a fence with nowhere to go.

Haghshenas says his partner first shot three times. One shot knocked Jardine-Douglas down; a fourth and final shot put him down as he tried to get back up.

The officer said it all happened quickly.

"You gotta understand the whole situation in my mind played out for 10 minutes, [but] in reality wasn’t even 10 seconds," he said.

Haghshenas said he thought about firing his own weapon at Jardine-Douglas "because he seemed like he had a mission and wanted to kill Constable Paterson."

The officer, with 20 of months experience at the time of the call, said Jardine-Douglas had options to get away from police after he left the bus, but chose to go after Paterson.

Despite repeated commands to drop the knife, Haghshenas said that Jardine-Douglas never responded and never hesitated to suggest he even understood the orders from police.

When asked by the lawyer for the Jardine-Douglas family, John Weingust, why officers didn’t try a softer approach, to calm the victim down, Haghshenas said there was no time and that their training teaches them to handle the situation, not the individual.

"I have to protect my own life, my partner’s life and whoever is around there," he said, describing facing a suspect approaching them with a knife.

"Me standing there saying: ‘Come on, let’s calm down,’ is gonna get me stabbed," Haghshenas said.

The inquest is examining the deaths of three people who were shot dead by Toronto police in separate incidents in 2010, 2011 and 2012. All three of the deceased had mental-health issues and each were holding sharp items when they were shot.

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