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SIU clears Toronto police officer who shot and killed Port Dover man

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The province’s police watchdog has decided not to charge a Toronto police officer in connection to the death of 70-year-old gunsmith Rodger Kotanko in Simcoe last November.

In a media release, Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said its investigation found no reasonable grounds to believe the officer who shot Kotanko committed a criminal offense.

The officer acted to protect himself and his fellow officer, SIU Director Joseph Martino said.

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing the Kotanko family said they are "shocked and saddened" by the SIU's findings.

According to the SIU’s account, on Nov. 3, 2021 officers went to Kotanko’s home on Port Ryerse Road to execute a warrant as part of a firearms-trafficking investigation.

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 Mr. Kotanko did not, despite multiple commands.

The SIU said within seconds of the officer’s 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.

One of the officers shot him four times.

Officers cared for Kotanko until paramedics arrived. He was transported to hospital where he died from multiple gunshot wounds.

“For reasons unknown, Mr. Kotanko ignored the officers’ direction to raise his hands, picked up a firearm, refused to drop it and pointed the gun at the officers,” said Martino. “In the result, there were no reasonable grounds to believe that the force used by the subject official was not legally justified.”

KOTANKO'S FAMILY RESPONDS

In a media release, Kotanko's family said they were disappointed the SIU decided not to lay charges.

“The family is shocked and saddened by the findings,” said Michael Smitiuch, the lawyer representing the family. “The Kotanko family is taking time to review and absorb the report, and try to understand how a customer’s life could be endangered and Rodger killed without a single police officer taking any responsibility.”

In January, the Kotanko family filled a civil lawsuit against Toronto police seeking $23 million in damages. That suit is ongoing.

In the statement of claim, it’s alleged the search warrant was unlawfully executed as it was not presented the day of the raid and was obtained using irrelevant and prejudicial information. It's also alleged police recklessly targeted Kotanko, negligently planned the raid, and exercised excessive and unjustifiable force.

The family plans to hold a news conference next week.

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