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RCMP officer fired bullet that struck Arthur Wilson in the head

01/06/2015 09:27 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT
Documents filed in the Nunavut Court of Justice show that the stray bullet that injured Arthur Wilson while he was sleeping in his bed in Iqaluit was fired by an RCMP officer. 

The admission comes in a statement of defence filed in July by the Attorney General of Canada and two RCMP officers. The statement also says that the RCMP officer's actions were not negligent. Rather, "their actions were authorized by law and reasonable in the circumstances." 

RCMP were responding to a call about gunshots in Iqaluit’s 100-block area on Nov. 23, 2011. 

According to the statement, the suspect was standing in front of the house where Wilson was living, and pointing a rifle at Const. Matthew Strader and Const. Marc-Antoine Breton. 

The officers were "obliged in the course of their duties to take immediate action including the use of force to protect themselves and civilian members of the public from the threat posed.”

Police fired five shots in total. Breton fired two bullets from a 9-mm pistol and Strader fired a shotgun three times. It was one of the 9-mm bullets that injured Wilson. 

The statement says the officers learned of Wilson's injury and "attended at his residence to enquire as to his condition and ensure that an ambulance was on its way" before pursuing and arresting the suspect.

Police found the man a short time later near house 238, bleeding from the chest area. He was taken to the Qikiqtani General Hospital where he was treated for injuries. 

Yellowknife RCMP were called in to investigate with oversight by the Ottawa Police Service. CBC contacted both of them, but they have yet to release the results of their investigation.

A youth was later charged in relation to the incident. 

Lawsuit seeks $310,000

The statement of defence was filed in response to a lawsuit filed in November of 2013 by Wilson, who says the events of that night changed his life. 

"I woke up with a very, very sharp pain in the back of my head followed by shooting pain," he said from him home in Moncton, N.B. "I heard a couple of gunshots and realized I’d been struck by a bullet."

His statement of claim accuses the two RCMP officers of negligently discharging a firearm in a public place and operating a firearm without due regard to public safety. It also alleges the Attorney General of Canada failed to train officers in proper methods of pursuing suspects, failed to train RCMP officers in the proper discharge of a weapon in a public area and failed to create policies directing the proper discharge of a weapon.

"Other than getting shot in the head while sleeping... my client knows very little about what happened," says Wilson’s lawyer, Steven Cooper. 

Wilson is seeking damages amounting to $310,000.

"I'm not looking for a million dollars or to become rich overnight," Wilson said. "I just want what's right. I don’t know what a human life would go for or what the pain and suffering would go for, but I’m sure there’s something." 

Unforgettable night

At the time of the shooting, Wilson, now 27, had been in Iqaluit for just two weeks working for Arctic Ventures and was living in staff housing just behind the store. 

Wilson rolled out of bed and crawled to the back bedroom where his sister, her fiance (now husband) and their six-month-old baby were sleeping. Another roommate was also in the building. 

"I banged on the door and shouted, 'Get down on the ground, bullets are coming through the house.'" 

Then he realized he was standing in a pool of blood. He lay in his sister’s lap, believing he was going to die. The baby slept through the entire thing. 

Wilson was taken to hospital where doctors used five staples to close the wound. 

Since then, he’s seen several therapists and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He says he still has flashbacks, has suffered from depression and often has trouble going to sleep.

"If you’re driving a car and you get in a real bad accident, you might not want to drive your car ever again," he says. "This happened while I was in bed sleeping — the most innocent thing a person can do — and I almost die from sleeping." 

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