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WRPS officer used ‘reasonable force’ in 2018 shooting, court rules

Sgt. Richard Dorling is seen in this undated image. Sgt. Richard Dorling is seen in this undated image.
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The Court of Appeal for Ontario has ruled Waterloo regional police Sgt. Richard Dorling used ‘reasonable force’ in the 2018 shooting of Joshua Hannaford in Cambridge.

Ontario’s highest court ruled a judge made no error in the conclusion.

Police in Cambridge responded to reports of a van with two rifles inside that was stolen from Hamilton.

During the trial, court heard that Hannaford approached Dorling with a black-handled object in front of his pants. Dorling fired his gun six times before hitting Hannaford in the leg.

In March 2020, Hannaford was found guilty of stealing a work van that had two rifles inside. While handing down his decision, Justice Toni Skarica called Hannaford unreliable and not credible, adding that Dorling did nothing wrong.

In the reasons listed in the Court of Appeal decision, it explained Hannaford “refused to drop a bag he was carrying and refused to put up his hands when an officer instructed him to do so. He turned towards an officer and said words to the effect of ‘want to die.’”

Hannaford argued against the trial judge’s ruling that Dorling did not use excessive force. He also contested the evidence relating to the words “want to die” before he was shot. Overall, Hannaford challenged the trial judge’s conclusion that excessive force wasn’t used.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the arguments made by Hannaford.

“In terms of ultimate issue on the use of reasonable force, we see no error in the trial judge’s approach,” the decision reads in part. “The officer was justified in discharging his firearm the first couple of times, but was not justified in continuing to fire at the appellant after he turned away from the officer.”

The decision said “this is a fair concession,” but it does not strengthen Hannaford’s position. In the end, he failed to prove force used that day was unreasonable in all of the circumstances.

“The appeal is dismissed,” the decision reads.

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