SIU clears officers in killing of gunman who ‘ambushed’ Toronto cop amid three-city rampage

The gunman who killed three in a September shooting rampage across the Greater Toronto Area had been staking out a Mississauga Tim Hortons, “waiting for a police officer,” before he fatally shot Toronto police Const. Andrew Hong, the province’s police watchdog said Tuesday.

That conclusion is among the new details contained in a report from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) that clears the four officers who killed gunman Sean Petrie of criminal wrongdoing.

Petrie, 40, was shot dead by police in a Hamilton cemetery on Sept. 12, hours after he “ambushed” Hong inside a Mississauga Tim Hortons, then shot up a Milton autobody shop where the gunman once worked, killing mechanic Shakeel Ashraf and international student Satwinder Singh. Petrie then led police on a manhunt into Hamilton.

The SIU, which probes deaths involving police, said four officers — two from Hamilton police, two from Halton Regional police — exchanged gunfire with Petrie inside Hamilton Cemetery on York Boulevard, near the off-ramp from Highway 403. Petrie died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds. He’d been wearing a ballistic body armour vest at the time of his death.

SIU Director Joseph Martino “determined the use of firearms by the officers constituted legally justified force given the circumstances,” the watchdog wrote in a Tuesday news release.

“As there were no reasonable grounds to believe that any of the officers comported themselves other than within the limits of the criminal law when they fired at the man, there was no basis for proceeding with charges in this case. The file has been closed.”

The report contains new revelations about the shootings, including that Petrie attempted to kill a total of eight people during his multi-city rampage, armed with a Norinco .45 calibre pistol “and a generous supply of ammunition.”

Among those he tried and failed to kill was an employee inside the autobody shop: Petrie shot him in the leg and then attempted to shoot him again, but only a clicking sound was heard when he fired. The gun was either out of bullets or the pistol jammed, according to the report. The victim survived.

The report also provides a detailed narrative of the shootings.

Investigators probing Petrie’s shooting have previously said he “ambushed” Hong and believed he may have been targeting a cop. Martino’s report is more definitive, saying Petrie “staked out” the Tim Hortons on Argentia Road and had been “waiting for a police officer to arrive at the premises.”

After Hong — who was in the area running a police motorcycle training course — walked in, the two men “made eye contact and nodded at each other,” the report said.

Petrie then shot him in the head and attempted to take Hong’s gun from its holster but couldn’t get it out. He then shot Hong again, the report reveals.

Petrie fled, bypassing his own car and headed towards a Jeep Cherokee. He “pulled the driver out of the vehicle,” shot him in the stomach, and stole the car. The driver survived.

Petrie then drove to his former workplace, MK auto repairs — he “believed himself aggrieved by his former employer,” the report says. There, he killed Ashraf, a 38-year-old father of two, then fired at two other employees who were able to get away, the report says. He then moved towards the front desk area where he shot Singh, a 28-year-old who’d been working part-time at the autobody shop, and the other employee who was shot in the leg but survived.

Halton Regional Police officers who responded to the Milton shooting then used Petrie’s cellphone number — obtained from surviving shop employees, who recognized Petrie as an ex-employee — to track his movements in real-time, learning that he was in the Hamilton cemetery.

According to the report, officers from Halton police and Hamilton police launched separate manhunts for Petrie in the cemetery, both finding him as he drove the Jeep Cherokee into a sunken area of the grounds. As officers from Hamilton police approached, Petrie fired at one of them.

That officer was “working under the mistaken impression that the person they were looking for was a White male,” the report said, referring to an initial suspect description tweeted by Peel Regional police following the Tim Hortons shooting. As Petrie shot at her, the Hamilton officer “yelled, ‘gun,’ ran for cover behind a tree, drew her weapon, and returned fire,” the report said. A second officer then took cover behind another tree and began firing.

Two tactical officers from Halton Regional Police — armed with C-8 rifles — soon arrived and began firing at Petrie as he fled between gravestones, the report says. He then turned his attention to the tactical officers.

“At one point, having emptied his firearm of ammunition, it appears he ditched the empty magazine with the intention of inserting a fully loaded one. He was incapacitated by gunshots before he could do so,” the SIU report says.

Petrie died on scene from multiple gunshot wounds, an autopsy determined. The ballistic vest he’d been wearing was capable of stopping the .40 calibre bullets fired by two of the officers but not the rifle ammunition fired by the tactical officers, the report states.

Police have said Petrie had been living out of his car at the time of the shooting rampage and had a lengthy criminal record.

As previously reported by the Star, court and parole records show Petrie had a record dating back 20 years for charges including weapons, drugs, gangs, assault, robbery and more.

The shootings across multiple jurisdictions prompted a massive police response and a province-wide emergency alert about an active shooter.

In his report, Martino concluded that the officers were “engaged in the discharge of their lawful duties” when they confronted Petrie in the Hamilton Cemetery in order to take him into custody.

“They were all aware from police broadcasts of one form or another of the carnage for which (Petrie) was responsible, and the dire prospect that he was not done,” he wrote.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing for the Star. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

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