Riley Fairholm death: no charges for officers in shooting of Lac-Brome teen
MONTREAL - The officer who shot and killed a 17-year-old in the Eastern Townships in 2018 did not commit a crime, prosecutors said on Monday.
Riley Fairholm, 17, died by an SQ officer's bullet on July 25, 2018, after telling his loved ones he didn't want to live anymore.
The Independent Bureau of Investigation (BEI), who look into cases where a person is injured during police operations, investigated the incident and delivered a report to provincial prosecutors (DPCP) on May 1, 2019. The DPCP announced on Monday that no charges would be laid against responding officers.
According to a review of events, published by the DPCP, provincial police were called to Lac-Brome, in the Eastern Townships, just after 1 a.m. on July 25. Fairholm, the caller told them, was shouting in the street, wearing black clothes and a backpack, walking west.
Responding officers confronted Fairholm in the parking lot of a restaurant at the corner of Victoria St. and Chemin Knowlton. He was carrying what looked like a handgun but was later reported as an air pistol.
Police arrived on the scene at 1:43 a.m., according to a DPCP report. They used a loudspeaker to communicate, in English, with the 17-year-old.
The officer asked Fairholm to drop the gun--telling him: "everything will be fine if he drops [the] weapon."
"Claiming that he has been planning his actions for five years, [Fairholm] does not obey the orders," the report reads. "He seems in crisis, brandishing his weapon in all directions."
At 1:44 a.m., one minute after officers arrived, Fairholm gestured at police while walking sideways; an officer crouching behind a patrol car fired a single shot, striking the 17-year-old in the head, according to the report released on Monday. It was previously unclear how long officers had tried to negotiate with Fairholm.
Officers tried to resuscitate the teen--a fact Fairholm's family has disputed, citing information from doctors and first responders.
Fairholm's mother, Tracy Wing, wasn't surprised by the DPCP's decision not to prosecute, she told CTV News on Monday. She said she's happy this chapter--the BEI's investigation and the prosecutors' analysis--is over.
"I think that investigation unfolded just like the intervention did. It was done really fast and I’m not sure how in-depth it was," she said, adding that she was shocked to learn police arrived on the scene just one minute before Riley was shot.
Fairholm's parents previously claimed the BEI botched the investigation into their son's death. They said in August that officers didn't do enough to de-escalate the situation and had failed to interview all relevant witnesses.
Wing said she still has questions, which she hopes will be answered. The BEI hasn't given her much information: she hasn't been allowed to listen to the 911 call or police radio records and she doesn't know the name or the experience-level of the officer who shot her son.
But despite the lack of communication, she said she's hopeful. The BEI has agreed to meet with her, and the police ethics commissioner ordered an investigation into police--and BEI investigators'--actions following Riley's death
The BEI said on Monday in a press release that 13 civilian witnesses, including paramedics, were interviewed over the course of the investigation. Three police officers who witnessed the shooting were also interviewed, as was the officer who fired the shot.
One of the officers, however, refused to answer the organization's questions. It is unclear which one.
"Contrary to the obligations laid down for this purpose, a police officer refused to answer the questions of the BEI investigators," the BEI press release stated.
The BEI said it informed the SQ in 2018 of the officers' lack of cooperation, but said other officers complied with the regulations.
The DPCP said the requirements in Article 25 of the criminal code--which designates circumstances under which police officers are allowed to use force--were fulfilled in the shooting.
Officers acted reasonably, and used necessary force under the circumstances, they wrote.
"Section 25 (3) specifies that a police officer may, if he acts on the basis of reasonable motives, use a force likely to cause death or injury if he believes that it is necessary in order to protect himself or herself," the report reads.
Prosecutors did, however, acknowledge that police officers are not required by law to be perfect.
"Indeed, police officers are often placed in situations where they must quickly make difficult decisions. In this context, we cannot require that they measure the degree of force applied accurately," the report continued.
"Taking into account the actions of [Fairholm] and his non-collaboration, the latter could fire at any time. The danger to the police officers near the man was, therefore, real. ... The DPCP concludes that the officer who fired had reasonable grounds to believe that the use of his pistol was necessary in order to protect himself or protect his colleagues from death or grievous bodily harm."