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Fatal police-involved shooting is second on same Kitchener street

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A 31-year-old was fatally shot by police on Monday, nearly a decade after a 20-year-old was shot and killed by a police officer on the same street.

Beau Baker was shot in front of his Brybeck Crescent apartment building on April 2, 2015.

Tuesday marked 11 months since the inquest into Baker’s death began, where a jury made 24 recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths.

The recommendations included several to the province and some to the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS).

There are similarities to Beau Baker’s case and the most recent shooting that is still being investigated by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

In the most recent case, his family said he was having a mental health crisis when he was killed.

Beau Baker case

Baker was armed with a knife when he was shot and killed by a WRPS officer.

 “He wouldn't listen to police and sadly, police took his life,” said Chris Lewis, CTV News public safety analyst said.

Baker’s family said he was in the midst of a mental health crisis when the shooting took place and called for an inquest in 2016.

“Whenever it happens, it's always tragic. Somebody's son to someone's family member. And the last thing police want to do is take a life,” Lewis said.

It would be nearly eight year later when the inquest would begin on Mar. 20, 2023. The coroner’s jury had four options to classify Baker’s death: accident, homicide, suicide or undetermined. The jury ruled Baker’s death a suicide.

“Sometimes the suspect really dictates how much force police have to use when they won't drop a knife and start advancing towards police. It's a sad reality,” said Lewis.

The WRPS officer who shot him, Staff Sgt. Eric Boynton, testified that he was worried that Baker would kill himself or others. He testified that he pleaded with Baker to drop the knife he was holding and he said Baker advanced in his direction so he fired his gun.

Boynton was cleared of wrongdoing by the SIU in 2015.

“There’s teams of police and mental health professionals, crisis intervention teams to work together. the mental health professional can try and deal with and de-escalate the situation, which is what they do, and they can do it very well,” said Lewis.

24 recommendations

The jury made 24 recommendations in total including 10 to the Province of Ontario and two to WRPS.

Some of the recommendations made to the province were to adequately fund community mental health and addiction services, ensure community-based non police crisis response teams are available 24/7 and to adopt a commitment to move away from licensing traditional group home settings and toward licensing and funding family model settings with access to care teams.

Recommendations made to WRPS included the need to revamp police training on de-escalation and improve interaction with people experiencing a mental health crisis.

‘There’s no one answer for it all’

Lewis says these recent incidents highlight the importance of having both police and mental health professional I attendance for these types of calls.

“So have a team of police and crisis intervention folks that are, you know, professional and properly trained to work with police those situations. There’s no one answer for it all. But we have to keep trying to do the best we can, he said.

Lewis says while there is no one model that fits all, he believes Waterloo Region's 24/7 crisis intervention teams could justify having mental health resources in place for future mental health calls.

“In a perfect world, it would be beneficial to have both attend so have a team of a police and crisis intervention folks that are professional and properly trained to work with police in those situations.”

But he said this system could be difficult to navigate as not all municipalities can justify having more staff working on a given day.

“It’s a real difficult situation to manage and to plan around. Yes, it’s all for the right reasons and cost shouldn’t be and issue but the reality is that it really is. You just can’t have mental health professionals sitting with police 24/7 in every municipality in this province waiting for a call to occur.”

Following the inquest in 2023, WRPS police said in statement to CTV News the recommendations will be immediately reviewed to examine areas of improvement.

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