Toronto police officer receives a three-month demotion for shooting and disappearing a man who had turned his back

A Toronto police officer displayed “poor judgment” when she fired her gun at an unarmed man in a parking lot in March 2017, and she will be demoted for three months, a police court judge ruled.

The bullet never hit the man and criminal charges were never brought in the case, which at the time was not covered by the Ontario police watchdog mandate.

The penalty of a demotion, from first class agent to second class agent, was proposed jointly by the prosecutor and the defense after Const. Anita Watton admitted last month that she did not follow Toronto police training standards and use of force policies.

A lawyer is asking the Special Investigations Unit to investigate incidents in which the police shoot, but do not injure, people after his client’s drunk driving charges were dropped in part because a police officer shot him. unarmed man as he walked away.

“Watton’s misconduct was serious and the circumstances surrounding his actions involved a firearm shot at an unarmed suspect. His actions demonstrated a lack of judgment and were not in accordance with the expectations of a police officer, ”said hearing officer Supt. Riyaz Hussain.

However, Hussain also noted that Watton, who joined the Toronto Police in 2007, has an excellent record as a police officer, including repeated recognition for his bravery. By pleading guilty, she took responsibility for her actions, she said.

“His actions since this event, and the observations of supervisors in a position to observe his behavior, have shown that he has the potential to reform or rehabilitate,” Hussain said.

At around 11 a.m., Watton pulled over the man at a traffic stop, suspecting he was driving under the influence, based on the agreed-upon facts of his guilty plea at the disciplinary hearing. The man ran off on foot and she chased after him.

Surveillance video, without audio, from the parking lot shows Watton chasing the man while holding his gun in one hand. The video shows them both stopping the briefing in the parking lot. Watton shoots shortly after the man turns his back on him and begins to walk away. After the shooting, the man lies on the ground and is handcuffed by another officer.

The man’s charges were dropped at the request of the Crown before Watton could testify at his trial.

Previously, Watton shot and killed a man in the same parking lot at 140 Adenac Dr. in 2013. She was acquitted by the Special Investigations Unit in that shooting, which happened after a man experiencing a mental health crisis had taken to another man hostage with a knife. .

At the time of the 2017 shooting, the SIU did not have a mandate to investigate incidents in which the police fired their guns but did not hit anyone. These incidents were added to the watchdog’s mandate as of December 1, 2020.

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