Canadian Police-Involved Deaths in October 2023
At least 7 people were killed in police actions in October 2023. This means that at least 77 people have had their lives taken through police actions so far this year. This includes people who were directly killed by police, as in police shootings, or died during police deployments or in police custody. In 2022, there were at least 117 police-involved deaths in Canada.
At least 8 people were killed in police actions in each of September and August. At least 10 people were killed in police actions in July 2023, following a June that saw at least nine people killed. At least 12 people had their lives taken in Canadian police actions in May 2023, the bloodiest month of police violence since October 2022. At least five people had their lives taken in police actions in April 2023, at least eight people in March, at least six people in February, and at least four people in January.
In October, three people were shot and killed by police (Niagara Regional Police Service, Calgary Police Service, and Grand Prairie RCMP). Three people died following arrest. One, a teenager, was struck by a car during a police foot pursuit. Three of the victims were described as being in some type of mental distress or health crisis and/or “acting erratically” or during a wellness check at the time police were deployed against them. This reinforces the fact that policing is not care and police are not the appropriate response to health care needs. One victim, Elias Whitehead of Webequie First Nation, has been identified publicly.
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 that have no reporting. For example, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of British Columbia lists an investigation into a death involving the Vancouver Police Department on October 24, but there are no public details provided. The IIO also lists two deaths, one in Richmond involving the RCMP on October 10 and one in Delta involving the Delta Police Department, that were closed without a report. In addition, two teenagers were killed after an attempted traffic stop by Windsor, Ontario, police, but no details have been made public to say what role police played in the subsequent crash in which the teens were killed.
September 20-October 2. Edmonton Police Service. Arrest.
A 46-year-old man died in hospital weeks after he was arrested by Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officers. It is reported that Edmonton police responded to a complaint on September 20, at around 12:44 AM, regarding a man “acting erratically,” possibly “impaired,” while allegedly swinging an ice chipper at the ground and at a passing vehicle.
Police say that when officers arrived, the man did comply with their demands to put down the chipper and to lay on the ground. While he was being put in handcuffs he went into medical distress.
Paramedics responded and transported through man to hospital.
On October 2, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was informed by the Edmonton Medical Examiner’s Office that the 46-year-old man had died in hospital.
October 12. Alberta RCMP. Arrest. Tasing.
A man died in Alberta RCMP custody after being shot with a taser during his arrest on October 12. Slave Lake RCMP claim they went to a local business regarding complaints of a man acting erratically and allegedly damaging property.
During the arrest a conductive energy weapon was deployed. Once handcuffs were secured, police reportedly noticed the man had become unresponsive. He was later declared dead.
October 15. Elias Whitehead of Webequie First Nation. Winnipeg Police Service. Arrest. Beating.
Elias Whitehead of Webequie First Nation was killed during an arrest by Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) late in the evening of October 15. It is reported that police went to the area of Broadway and Sherbrook Street shortly before 11 PM, regarding reports of a man running into traffic and acting erratically. A man was located and arrested but went into medical distress. He was transported to the hospital in critical condition and later died there. The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) reports that the man had struggled to breathe during his arrest.
Witnesses have since come forward to say that they watched two people who they believe were police officers repeatedly punch a man who was lying on the ground. They say that paramedics then began performing CPR on the man before putting him on a stretcher and into an ambulance.
The witnesses say they were walking south on Sherbrook when they saw a man lying on the pavement with a bicycle next to him. A fire truck arrived, and paramedics started giving the man medical attention. Then they say they witnessed people they believe were police officers grab another man near the scene and slam him against a cruiser before and tackling him to the ground. Witness Alex Braun submitted video to CBC News showing a man on the ground, with police officers pinning him down. According to Braun, “[They] started kneeling on him and punching him from both sides in the head and torso.”
He reports that the man’s legs were flailing for about 30 seconds to a minute in response to the beating, before his limbs stopped moving.
Another witness, Sarah Struthers, said she yelled “stop” at one point. In her words, “I was really scared. The man who they were holding down was not fighting back at all, so we were all watching in shock.” When the man stopped moving, police continued kneeling on him according to witnesses.
Two ambulances reportedly arrived, one for the man originally on the ground near the bike and one for the man who was reportedly beaten by police. According to the witnesses, the man who had been beaten was placed onto a stretcher as one paramedic did chest compressions. He was then put into an ambulance, which reportedly remained parked for a while.
Police have confirmed that a man went into medical distress and died after being taken into custody at that same location and time. They would not confirm that the man who died was the same one who was recorded being beaten. Police say only that there were two incidents in the area. A police spokesperson stated, “We cannot confirm whether this video is of the incident we put out. There was one other incident it was a medical. No one was taken into custody.”
Members of the WPS homicide unit have been notified, as well as the IIU. As of the morning of October 16, evidence markers were observable scattered throughout the roadway, with one marker placed on the hood of a parked police cruiser that appeared to be involved in the investigation.
The witnesses were stunned by what they saw. In the words of Alex Braun, “I was really in shock. I’ve seen videos of this almost exact sort of police violence [but] to see it happen in front of me was really shocking.”
October 15. Grande Prairie RCMP. Shooting.
Grande Prairie RCMP shot and killed a man on the evening of October 15. It is reported that RCMP officers were called to a home in the area of 104th Avenue and 92A Street at 7:05 PM, after someone reported a “disturbance.” Police claim they were met outside the residence by a man armed with a firearm. They claim that some sort of undisclosed “altercation” occurred, and an officer or officers fired shots striking the man. Emergency medical services (EMS) was called and transported the victim to hospital where he later died of those injuries.
October 18. Calgary Police. Shooting.
Calgary police shot and killed one man and injured another in the afternoon of October 18. Police claim there was an exchange of gunfire with one officer also being shot.
It is reported that at about 1 PM, police were executing a warrant at McKnight Village, in the 5700 block of Falsbridge Drive NE, in the northeastern community of Falconridge. Tactical unit members were deployed for the arrest. Police took a man into custody whose face and handcuffed hands were bloody.
The shooting occurred in a public space at the McKnight Village Shopping Centre, during a busy part of the day. Staff at some nearby businesses report being told to stay inside and lock their doors after the incident began. Pictures from the scene show a bullet hole in the front window of a barber shop. The side window of a grey SUV, which was parked in front of the business, was shattered.
Police have not stated why they attempted a high-risk takedown with the tactical unit involved at a busy plaza with many members of the public present.
Calgary police have killed at least four people so far this year.
October 13-19. York Regional Police. Foot Chase.
A 17-year-old boy died almost one week after being struck by a car while being chased by police at Canada’s Wonderland amusement park. The initial incident happened on Friday, October 13. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) had previously reported that a York Regional Police officer was patrolling the parking lot at Canada’s Wonderland around 7:30 PM when he saw a 17-year-old male “behaving suspiciously” and exited his police car. The teen allegedly ran and the officer began a foot pursuit. When the teen reached Jane Street between Norwood Avenue and Avro Road he was struck by a vehicle. The boy was taken to hospital in serious condition but died on the afternoon of October 19.
No additional information is available at this time. It has not been explained by police what the “behaving suspiciously” actually involved.
October 23. Niagara Regional Police Service. Shooting.
Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) officers shot and killed a 48-year-old man in St. Catharines, Ontario, on the evening of October 23. The Special Investigations Unit reports that at approximately 9 PM, officers were sent to a residence on Melody Trail near Arthur Street for a call regarding a man with a knife. Police claim that officers were at the front door of the residence when the man allegedly approached with a knife. Two officers shot the man. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The SIU has assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to examine the case.
Jeff Shantz is a long-time anti-authoritarian organizer, researcher, and writer who lives and works on Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo territories (Surrey, British Columbia).
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