Canadian Police-Involved Deaths in February 2023
At least six people had their lives taken in Canadian police actions in February 2023. This includes two people who were shot and killed by police (in Vancouver and Calgary). Three other people died in other ways in the course of police actions. A sixth case is as yet undetermined, with police having fired their weapons but the cause of death not yet released publicly. Notably, all six of these people were reported to be in some type of mental distress at the time of the encounter with police.
At least four people had their lives taken in police actions in January 2023. In 2022 there were at least 117 police-involved deaths in Canada.
The details below are based on police reports, reports from oversight agencies, and in some cases information from families. As always, because there are no formal, systemic mechanisms for documenting and reporting police killings publicly in Canada, all numbers presented for police-involved deaths represent an undercount.
In addition to the known cases, there are cases of police-involved deaths in February that have no reporting. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) BC lists one death involving RCMP in Chilliwack, BC, on February 4, that was closed without a public report. They also report a death involving the Victoria Police Department, on February 15, but have provided no details publicly.
February 4. Wesley Wanuch. Cold Lake First Nation. RCMP. Shooting.
Wesley Wanuch, a 45-year-old member of Beaver First Nation in Treaty 8 territory, was killed in an Alberta RCMP action at a home in Cold Lake First Nation on February 4.
Few details have been released publicly. RCMP claim that officers responded to a firearms complaint and that they contained the residence and attempted to make contact with the person. They also claim a “confrontation” of some kind occurred that resulted “in at least one officer discharging a firearm.”
Police entered the home and found the man dead. They claim that firearms were found in the home.
Family members have disputed this. They say the call did not involve a firearms complaint. They also note that Mr. Warnuch was a licensed hunter, so of course there were guns in his home. This should not have any nefarious implications. In the family’s view, this was “a mental health issue.”
Police are often the only ones present, apart from the victim, when they kill. They control the flow of information and often try to create a public view that a victim killed themselves when police know full well they were responsible.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating.
February 4. Barrie Police Service.
A 35-year-old man reportedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a police intervention in Barrie, Ontario, on February 4. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) reports that at around 12:10 PM, a woman fled from a vehicle in the east end of Barrie and contacted police. The vehicle reportedly left the scene and was tracked by Barrie Police Service officers. At around 2:30 PM, officers made visual and verbal contact with a man in the area of Kempenfelt Drive and Nelson Square. They allegedly initiated brief negotiations with the man who at some point allegedly suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The SIU has assigned two investigators and two forensic investigators to examine the case.
February 8. Dilbag “Dylan” Hothi. Langley.
Twenty-six-year-old Dilbag “Dylan” Hothi, a suspended Surrey Police Service (SPS) officer, allegedly killed himself with RCMP officers present in Langley, British Columbia, on February 8.
Hothi had been arrested on August 16, 2022, for alleged breach of trust. The investigation was being headed by the RCMP. Business in Vancouver reports that “detectives were probing whether a police officer provided information to someone associated with a gang.” Ron MacDonald, head of the Independent Investigations Office, has only said that the incident “may be linked to criminal allegations against Hothi.”
The SPS has reported that the officer was under a suspension with pay because of allegations of a breach of trust incident in 2022. SPS spokesperson Ian MacDonald said, “My understanding was that this officer was suspended with pay and was subject to (an) investigation. It was a breach of trust investigation that was being fronted by Surrey RCMP and was working its way through BC Prosecution Services.”
RCMP claim that the man “sustained a serious injury that appears to have been self-inflicted” while police were inside the building. He was subsequently pronounced dead.
Hothi had one year of experience with the RCMP before joining the SPS. He had previously served in the military. SPS Media Liaison Ian MacDonald says, “The SPS recruiting, interviewing and vetting process is thorough and rigorous.”
It has not been said whether a recent risk assessment had been done on officer Hothi, to ascertain any safety concerns. It has also not been said how he gained access to a weapon. SPS claim he did not have access to his service weapon.
The shooting occurred at The Range Langley, a large indoor shooting range. On their website, they claim they employ police and military members.
February 9. Vancouver Police Department. Shooting.
Vancouver police shot and killed a man on the evening of February 9. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC reports that police responded to a 911 call regarding a man near the north end of the Granville Street Bridge who was allegedly behaving erratically. VPD report that officers responded to the bridge at 6:45 PM. At some point there was an undisclosed “interaction” between the man and police during which shots were fired by police. The man was subsequently pronounced dead.
BC Emergency Health Services report that three ambulances and a supervisor were dispatched to the North End of the Granville Bridge around 6:54 PM. This would mean that police interacted with the victim for under 10 minutes.
VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison told Global News that, “The person had either in his possession or had access to a weapon. The officers who were on scene believed that their safety or the safety of others was in danger or they were at risk of death or grievous bodily harm.” These are all rather vague statements and there is a difference between having a weapon and having access to a weapon. There has been no evidence of a non-police weapon, or what that alleged weapon was, provided publicly at this time.
February 14. Mitch Croston. Calgary Police Service. Shooting.
Mitch Croston has been identified by his mother, Shelley Croston, as the thirty-four-year-old man shot and killed by Calgary police in a southeast Calgary office building on February 14. It is reported that police were called to a vacant industrial building in the 3000 block of Second Avenue SE, north of Memorial Drive, in the Franklin Industrial Park, at around 4:20 AM, regarding an alleged break-and-enter. Mr. Croston was unhoused and seeking shelter. Police claim that when officers arrived, they found an individual inside the building. Some sort of interaction took place and police shot him.
Mr. Croston had recorded hip-hop songs and was trying to pursue a career as a DJ. Shelley Croston says that her son had been struggling with schizophrenia since his twenties, and more recently with drug addiction. She wants answers to why police shot her son and why they could not properly deal with a man experiencing mental illness.
In her words: “Why did they shoot him like that — my son had schizophrenia, he was struggling … they’re not trained that this person might be having an episode.” She says her son “wasn’t a dangerous person” and did not carry a gun or other weapons. She relates that he struggled with a fentanyl addiction and had periods of paranoia in which he was convinced people were out to kill him and her.
Mr. Croston had been evicted from his apartment in October and in his mother’s view, “He was probably going to that (Franklin Industrial Park) building to get warm … he told me earlier he’d been sleeping in bus shelters.”
His mother says he had attempted to get more hospital treatment recently, without success. Instead, she says, he was told to rely on his medication.
The police killing of Mr. Croston was the third shooting by police in or near Calgary in the span of one week. Both of the other incidents also allegedly involved people struggling with mental health issues.
This killing shows the layers of violence both carried out and upheld by policing. Mr. Croston was an unhoused person who needed health care supports. As those resources are underfunded and diminished, police budgets continue to balloon. At the same time, property interests are prioritized over human life, and someone is killed over seeking shelter in a vacant building.
February 28. Ontario Provincial Police. Kingsville.
A man died in Kingsville, Ontario, in the morning of February 28, with police present. It is reported that at around 9:30 AM, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were notified of a man in distress. Officers reportedly pinged the man’s cellphone and located his vehicle in the area of Cedar Island Beach. They claim that as the officers’ vehicle approached, the man drove into the water.
The man is presumed dead and recovery efforts are underway.
The SIU has assigned three investigators and one forensic investigator to examine the case.