Is this Canada’s first “mask murder”?
Those who keep up with coronavirus-related news in the US probably remember an incident that transpired a few months ago where a security guard at a Family Dollar store in Michigan was shot and killed after asking a customer to put on a mask. But a similar incident that occurred more than a month later, where police shot and killed a man after he refused to wear his mask, got much less attention outside of the local press.
Well, this week, Canada one of its first samples of mask-related violence when police shot and killed a man in Ontario after he refused to put on a mask.
According to the CBC, Ontario’s police watchdog unit is investigating an incident where two officers shot and killed a 73-year-old man in Haliburton County on Wednesday morning. Right before the killing, the man had refused to wear a mask and allegedly assaulted a grocery store employee before driving off, according to a statement from the Ontario police that leaves out most of the details about how the shooting transpired.
Initially, police were called to a Valu-Mart in Minden, Ontario, just after 8am local time, according to OPP Sgt. Jason Folz, who spoke with the CBC.
When the suspect left the scene after officers arrived, police refrained from trying to stop him after he drove off “in the interest of public safety”. Instead, they took down his license plate, and showed up at his house later.
Two officers later visited the man at his home in Minden on Indian Point Road, the SIU said.
Outside the home, an unspecified “interaction” ensued, and two police officers fired their guns at the man. The Ontario Police SIU (the unit that handles press) said that after the shooting, the officers called in “additional resources”, which were brought to the area near Eagle Lake, by the village of Haliburton.
The shooting victim was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead a couple of hours later. Officers recovered a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle from the scene, but it’s not clear whether the man had brandished them at the police, or whether he was unarmed during the encounter.
As of Friday, investigators have thoroughly searched the scene, and an autopsy report is expected (though the findings aren’t really in doubt).
But if the man attacked the officers first, why didn’t they just say that?
While the authorities were – for whatever reason – reluctant to share a complete account of the incident with the press (presumably, their story will be routed through legal before being dished out to trusted reporters), a woman who works at the Valu-Mart spoke with the CBC, and apparently filled them in.
Tianna Frances, a worker at the Valu-Mart in Minden, said she arrived for her shift at the grocery store shortly after the incident. When she arrived, all her coworkers, and even the customers, were talking about what had just occurred.
“When I got here everyone was talking about it,” Frances said. “My coworkers were a little bit shaken up, yes.”
Frances was told that the man didn’t want to wear a mask and she and other employees had to explain politely to other customers that an incident had happened earlier when they asked why the police were there.
“I guess he just got angry and didn’t want to. We couldn’t really deal with that ourselves because it’s really against the rules. So we had to call the police and everything,” Frances said.
Frances added that workers at her store shouldn’t have to enforce the mandatory mask policy issued by the local health district. It adds too much responsibility to jobs where workers are already stretched pretty thin. The policy only just took effect this week.
“It’s causing chaos,” she said. “If we didn’t have to force him and … tell him that he couldn’t come into the store, nothing would have happened, really. He would have got his groceries and went along with his day.”