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'Outrageous and unthinkable': Family of man killed by Toronto police addresses SIU decision

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Family members of a man who was shot and killed by Toronto police in Simcoe last November are speaking out about a decision released by the province’s Special Investigations Unit last week.

On Thursday, the SIU said there were no reasonable grounds to believe the officer who shot 70-year-old gunsmith Rodger Kotanko committed a criminal offence. The decision went on to say the officer acted to protect himself and his fellow officers.

Kotanko was shot and killed when police executed a search warrant at his workshop.

“It is outrageous and unthinkable that police officers who targeted and took down Rodger, can call it a day and simply walk away,” said Suzanne Kantor, one of Kotanko’s siblings, in a news release. “The Rodger we knew was a calm and gentle man. The SIU version of events, just doesn’t add up.”

The family held a press conference on Tuesday morning. They shared video of the moments leading up to Kotanko’s death.

“I’m just angry and infuriated,” Kantor said.

According to the SIU, officers went to Kotanko’s home on Port Ryerse Road Nov. 3, 2021 to execute a search warrant. Two officers went to Kotanko's workshop, where the door was open, and identified themselves as police. Kotanko was inside with a customer. The officers told them to raise their hands. The customer complied, but Kotanko did not, despite multiple commands.

The SIU said within seconds of the officers' entry, Kotanko reached his right hand towards the workbench, retrieved a firearm, and pointed it at the officers as they yelled at him to drop the gun. Kotanko did not. He was shot four times.

Officers cared for Kotanko until paramedics arrived. He was taken to hospital, where he died from his injuries.

“The SIU report into Rodger’s fatal shooting is not the whole story,” said Michael Smitiuch, the lawyer representing the Kotanko family, in the release. “The reality is that police created a situation in which Rodger Kotanko did not stand a chance.”

Kotanko’s family has filed a civil suit, looking for $23 million in damages from the Toronto Police Services Board, five officers – including the one who shot Kotanko, as well as Insp. Norman Proctor and Toronto police Chief James Ramer.

The statement of claim alleges that police “recklessly targeted Kotanko, negligently planned the raid, and exercised excessive and unjustifiable force when they stormed his home workshop on Port Ryerse Road.”

“The result of the [SIU] investigation doesn’t mean that it’s right,” Smitiuch said. “The family is not going to stop until there is accountability and justice for Rodger.”

“There are too many questions why and we demand answers,” Kantor said. “We need those answers.”

Toronto police said they’re unable to comment due to ongoing civil litigation.

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