Calgary police say a man possibly suffering a mental health crisis has died in hospital following a confrontation with officers early Friday morning.
Police say they were called to a gym in the city’s northeast on Thursday night to respond to an altercation involving the man. Officers say they encountered the man nearly six hours later on a suburban residential street, where they fired a service pistol as well as a plastic-projectile launcher that’s meant to be a less lethal option.
Acting deputy Chief Ryan Ayliffe said officers tried numerous times to peacefully resolve the situation.
“There’s no incident commander that wants to have the resolution to any contact being loss of life. It’s a tragedy,” he said Friday.
Police say the others involved in the gym altercation left by the time they arrived, but the man continued to drive around the building. Police tried to reach out to him through his family and closed the gym.
After about two hours, police say the man sped off and officers followed him as he drove dangerously to his home. Conversations with the man and background checks led officers to believe he was having a mental health crisis. Though he appeared to be calming down, he still wouldn’t surrender to police.
“Our officers have an incredibly complex and dynamic job. They’re continually evaluating every situation as it presents itself. And when you add a person who’s in crisis, whether it’s from mental health or any other reason, it just compounds that dynamic,” Ayliffe said.
The officers left at around 2:20 a.m., for fear an attempt to arrest the man could turn violent. They towed his vehicle and planned to come back the next day.
But then there was a complaint of loud music coming from the man’s home and officers patrolling the area found him in a nearby intersection around 3:45 a.m.
That’s when officers used force. It was the first time front-line officers used a “less lethal” ARWEN device since they were made available to them in June. Previously, tactical officers used the launchers in tense situations.
Ayliffe could not say how much time elapsed between the ARWEN being used and the service pistol being fired. The two officers involved had six and eight years of experience on the force. Ayliffe would not say who fired with which weapon.
Knives were recovered at the scene.
Officers administered first aid until paramedics arrived to take the man to hospital, where he died.
No officers or members of the public were injured in the confrontation. The officers involved are on a 30-day administrative leave.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, a provincial police watchdog, is investigating.