Believed suspect was reaching for a gun, report says
A Niagara police officer feared for his life and was justified in fatally shooting a man who led four police forces on a five-hour pursuit, the province's Special Investigations Unit says.
Martyn Gordyn, 27, was shot by police after the stolen pickup truck he was driving was run off the road on the Niagara Parkway in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Jan. 5, 2021.
A Niagara Regional Police officer fired the fatal shot after Gordyn rifled through a duffle bag and appeared to be reaching for a gun, the SIU said in a report issued on Dec. 21.
The object turned out to be a butane torch, shaped like a garden hose nozzle, and used to vaporize and inhale methamphetamine. Several butane torches were found inside the truck afterward, the SIU said.
Known as “the subject officer” for the SIU's investigation, the regional officer fired two shots from close range and the first one, aimed at Gordyn's right shoulder, missed him.
The officer believed Gordyn “was reaching for a gun when he initially discharged his firearm, and that (he) had retrieved a gun and was about to shoot at the time of the second shot,” SIU director Joseph Martino concluded.
That shot was aimed at the back of the driver's seat.
Although it turned out “there was no gun in the pickup truck and (Gordyn) did not have a gun at his disposal during the shooting, I am not persuaded that (the officer's) mistakes were unreasonable in the circumstances,” Martino said.
He said he was satisfied the officer “discharged his weapon in the reasonable belief that it was necessary to do so to protect himself from death.”
A detailed report by Martino offers a minute-by-minute description of the day's events, beginning with a police officer spotting the stolen red Ford F-150 crew cab pickup in a Tim Hortons drive-through in Hamilton at about 9 a.m.
The vehicle fled but police did not pursue it and notified Niagara police and the OPP.
Over the next several hours, Gordyn, with Lindsey Archer, 29, in the passenger seat, were spotted in Fenwick, Dunnville and eventually on Lundy's Lane in Niagara Falls at about 1:30 p.m.
From there, the truck was pursued by various police departments, including the OPP and Niagara Parks Police. At 2:11 p.m. at York Road and the Parkway, regional police used a spike belt to try to disable the pickup.
“The pickup truck’s front passenger tire was damaged by the spike belt and, in time, would completely come off the rim, but (Gordyn) continued to drive” toward Niagara-on-the-Lake at about 60 km/h, the SIU said.
About five minutes later, regional and parks police tried unsuccessfully to box in the truck and the OPP deployed another spike belt as well.
As OPP and regional officers drove eastward along Line 3 Road near Inniskillin Wines, with the subject officer in the lead, he was able to broadside the slow-moving pickup. With help from other officers' vehicles, Gordyn was finally boxed in and forced into the ditch at 2:21 p.m.
Police yelled at Gordyn to put his hands up, but he ignored them and kept gunning the engine, trying to escape.
Two officers then shot pepper spray into the crew cab through an open driver's side rear window. It bothered Gordyn but he didn't surrender.
The subject officer told the SIU, Gordyn “reached with his right arm towards the floor of the backseats and started to rifle through a duffle bag.”
The officer, who was standing by the open driver side rear window with his gun drawn and pointed at Gordyn, “told him to stop reaching into the bag. Concerned that (Gordyn) was retrieving a gun, the officer took aim at his exposed right shoulder and shot once,” the SIU said. The shot missed.
As Gordyn continued to reach into the rear compartment and came up with his right hand with what the officer feared was a gun, he fired a second round. “This one was aimed at the back of the driver’s seat.”
It was 2:22 p.m. Paramedics cared for Gordyn but he died of his wounds. His passenger, Archer, was eventually sentenced to 12 months probation.
In concluding that the police shooting was justified, Martino noted, “By the time his truck was effectively immobilized by the side of the road, (Gordyn) had led police officers from four police services on an hours-long rampage through the streets of several jurisdictions.”
He endangered the lives of innocent people as he “ran stop signs and red lights, grossly exceeded the speed limit, travelled in oncoming lanes of traffic and struck objects along his path. No reasonable person would have been in any doubt of (Gordyn's) dogged determination to escape police apprehension at any cost.”