Police watchdog: Toronto man killed by police near a school had a pellet gun

TORONTO — A man shot and killed by police in Toronto’s east end had been carrying a pellet gun, Ontario’s police watchdog said Friday as it investigated what took place. 

Officers had been called to an area near a school around 1 p.m. Thursday on reports of a person with a gun, police had said. 

Toronto Police Chief James Ramer shared few details hours later, citing the investigation by the province’s police watchdog, but said officers were “confronted” by an individual, and that person was now dead.

The Special Investigations Unit said Friday that a 27-year-old man was shot at by two officers and it was discovered he was carrying a B.B. gun.

“It was a pellet gun,” SIU spokeswoman Kristy Denette said in a written statement. 

An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.

The SIU said it has assigned four investigators and three forensic investigators to the case. The watchdog’s initial statement said that Toronto officers responded to the area of East Avenue and Maberley Crescent at 1:35 p.m. on Thursday.

Denette said later Friday that officers responded to the scene after receiving multiple 911 calls to report a man walking with a rifle just before 1 p.m. Officers located the man at about 1:20 p.m., the man was pronounced deceased on scene at about 1:40 p.m.

She did not say why the force had not mentioned the pellet gun in its earlier statements. Denette said the SIU was seeking clarity on the timeline and noted that a pellet gun is considered a firearm.

The fatal police shooting happened near William G. Davis Public School. 

The Toronto District School Board said four schools near Maberley and Oxhorn Road were temporarily on lockdown due to the police investigation in the area.

TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said Friday that there is a heightened sense of worry around the potential for school shootings following the death of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.

“I think when you had the incident yesterday, with the background of what happened in Texas earlier in the week, it’s certainly that much more concerning for parents, families, staff, students,” said Bird. 

“There was no known direct threat to the school (yesterday) but we have to take these things seriously.”

Bird said that it was a difficult afternoon for the communities at all four schools. He said that support services staff have been made available to all students and staff at the schools.

Ramer on Thursday said there were many unanswered questions about what happened. 

“We have no understanding at this point in time, what was about to happen, or what could have happened,” he said. “So I don’t want to speculate and suggest that it’s something similar to what’s happened in the United States.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press