An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer didn't commit a crime when he shot at a man during an interaction in Bourget, Ont., that left another officer dead and "grievously wounded" the officer under investigation, the province's police watchdog has found.
There were "no reasonable grounds" to believe the officer who fired his gun had broken any laws, said Joseph Martino, director of the Special Investigations Unit, in a news release late Friday afternoon.
The events under investigation took place on May 11 in the town of Bourget, about 50 kilometres east of Ottawa.
They left OPP Sgt. Eric Mueller dead and two other officers injured — with the officer under investigation, according to the SIU, suffering life-altering injuries.
3 officers shot 'within minutes'
After 2 a.m. on May 11, the OPP's provincial communications centre got a call about a shot fired on Laval Street in Bourget, a village within the city of Clarence-Rockland.
The gunfire allegedly came from the home of Alain Bellefeuille, a 39-year-old whose address is on that street, according to court records.
Mueller and two other officers, Marc Lauzon and Francois Gamache-Asselin, were dispatched to the area, arriving about 10 to 15 minutes after police received the call, according to the OPP.
All three officers were shot by Bellefeuille "within minutes" of their arrival, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said in a news conference that same day.
Police investigate the shooting in Bourget on May 11. (Jean Delisle/CBC)
After the shooting, more officers showed up to find Mueller, Lauzon and Gamache-Asselin wounded.
They were able to arrest Bellefeuille without incident, police said. Mueller later succumbed to his injuries in an Ottawa hospital.
The SIU report did not identify which of the two surviving officers was under investigation. But in his decision, Martino found the officer's use of his weapon was legally justified.
"It is evident that [he] fired his weapon to protect himself from an assault at the hands of the complainant." he wrote. "The officer had just been struck by multiple rounds and he had every reason to fear that his life was at risk."
Martino also found the use of the firearm constituted "reasonable force," adding that nothing short of return fire would have met the needs of the moment.
None of the shots hit the suspect, the SIU said.
The day after the shooting, an OPP forensic team found three spent 9-mm rounds inside the home that matched three rounds missing from an officer's pistol, according to the SIU report.
This Glock model 17 pistol fired was by an Ontario Provincial Police officer in the direction of the suspect in the Bourget shooting. This image was released in the SIU's report Friday afteroon. (SUI)
SIU report describes night of shooting
OPP provided the SIU with video footage from cameras of officers involved in the incident. Their report describes that footage in detail.
At 2:28 a.m., the video from Mueller's camera started when he pulled up behind another police cruiser already parked in the driveway of the Laval Street home.
Both officers got out of their vehicles and walked up the driveway, shining their flashlights at the house. They circled the home and knocked several times on the rear door, the SIU said, before returning to the front porch.
A third officer then arrived and positioned himself behind the others.
A dog was heard barking from within the home ... the home was in darkness, with the exception of the officers' flashlights. - Excerpt from the SIU report
"A dog was heard barking from within the home," the report said. "The home was in darkness with the exception of the officers' flashlights."
The officer under investigation opened the front door and shouted out "Police!" and the name of the accused. He entered and unholstered his gun, while Mueller followed.
"Without warning, multiple rounds were fired from the bedroom, which was in darkness," the report said, noting nine or 10 shots rang out in the span of just a few seconds.
The two officers immediately fell to the ground. The officer under investigation managed to run from the living room to the front porch despite suffering "life-altering wounds," shooting two or three times in the direction of the bedroom as he fled.
Mueller tried to get up but was unable to and collapsed to the floor.
A member of the OPP holds a program during the Mueller's funeral in Ottawa on May 18. (The Canadian Press)
Seeking cover from behind a parked cruiser, the third officer yelled at the others to retreat before he was also struck by a bullet, one that had ricocheted from a shot fired inside the home.
Shortly after, the accused exited the bedroom, fired his rifle and crouched down over Mueller who was lying on the floor, the report said.
The last shots were fired at 2:35 a.m. Roughly two minutes later, the accused called 911, the SIU said. He later surrendered into police custody.
The SIU had invoked its mandate in the case because one officer fired his weapon at a person. The independent civilian agency investigates reports involving Ontario police where there's been death, serious injury or sexual assault.