Po­lice watch­dog says Anthony Divers, 36, rep­re­sented threat

Of­fi­cer cleared in shoot­ing death

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

The prov­ince’s po­lice watch­dog has cleared the po­lice of­fi­cer who shot and killed Anthony Divers in down­town Hamil­ton.

Divers, 36, was shot and killed around mid­night Sept. 30 last year near the Hamil­ton GO Centre by a po­lice of­fi­cer re­spond­ing to a call about a re­port­edly armed man who had com­mit­ted an as­sault.

A Special In­ves­ti­ga­tions Unit re­port made pub­lic Thurs­day night notes that Divers was not armed, but finds the po­lice of­fi­cer “rea­son­ably be­lieved that his life was in dan­ger … and his ac­tions in fir­ing upon Mr. Divers were jus­ti­fied.”

Fam­ily mem­bers, who couldn’t be reached for com­ment Thurs­day night, have ex­pressed frus­tra­tion at the long wait for the in­ves­tiga­tive re­port and have long main­tained Divers was not armed that night. Divers’ sis­ter, Yvonne Alexan­der, has pub­licly called for Hamil­ton po­lice to man­date lapel cam­eras for front-line of­fi­cers to en­sure trans­parency for the pub­lic.

“It’s a very long, ag­o­niz­ing, tor­tu­ous wait,” Alexan­der told The Spec­ta­tor this spring. “We’ve had no up­dates what­so­ever. You just sit and wait and hope and pray for an­swers.”

Other fam­ily mem­bers have said Divers was bat­tling men­tal health is­sues that night.

Se­cu­rity footage from that evening showed Divers strik­ing his es­tranged wife, Madeleine Divers, in the face around 11:30 p.m. that night.

I find that the (of­fi­cer) did not have the lux­ury of de­lay­ing and risk­ing his own life. SIU RE­PORT

She pre­vi­ously told The Spec­ta­tor Divers was in­co­her­ent, pos­si­bly high and in dis­tress when she en­coun­tered him that night, but also un­armed. She said by phone Thurs­day night she was not aware of the SIU re­port find­ings be­fore hang­ing up.

The re­port cites an ac­count from a wit­ness po­lice of­fi­cer who orig­i­nally in­ter­viewed the woman who’d re­ported be­ing as­saulted by Divers be­fore the shoot­ing oc­curred.

The woman re­port­edly told po­lice Divers may have been high on crys­tal meth or fen­tanyl, was “an­tipo­lice” and had ear­lier in the day shown the woman a Glock pis­tol in his pants. That in­for­ma­tion was re­layed to the of­fi­cer who even­tu­ally spot­ted Divers near a James Street South bus stop later that night.

The re­port said the of­fi­cer also had prior ex­pe­ri­ence with Divers, knew him to be anti-po­lice and to have a crim­i­nal record for man­slaugh­ter.

The SIU in­ves­ti­ga­tor found Divers was “com­pletely un­re­spon­sive” to po­lice com­mands to stop and get on the ground and even­tu­ally turned to­ward the pur­su­ing of­fi­cer with his right hand in the front of his waist­band, con­cealed from view. That be­hav­iour — com­bined with ear­lier re­ports Divers had shown off a firearm — “would have rea­son­ably caused the (sub­ject of­fi­cer) to be­lieve that Mr. Divers was about to shoot him,” reads the SIU con­clu­sion.

“I find that the (of­fi­cer) did not have the lux­ury of de­lay­ing and risk­ing his own life by wait­ing to see if a shot was ac­tu­ally fired from what­ever weapon that Mr. Divers was in­ti­mat­ing that he had hid­den.”

Divers is the fifth per­son Hamil­ton po­lice have shot dead in the past nine years. Three other fa­tal Hamil­ton po­lice shoot­ings in the past nine years in­volved men in some state of men­tal dis­tress: Steve Mesic, 45, in 2013; An­dreas Chin­nery, 19, in 2011; and Soun Saing, 46, in 2007. The fourth fatality was Phone­say Chan­thachack, 27, who was shot in 2012 dur­ing a botched stake­out of a stolen van. Men­tal ill­ness wasn’t a fac­tor in the shoot­ing.

In the past, in­quest ju­ries have sug­gested po­lice should fo­cus more on de-es­ca­lat­ing charged sit­u­a­tions through com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“If the EDP (emo­tion­ally dis­turbed per­son) has failed to re­spond to stan­dard ini­tial po­lice com­mands, i.e. ‘Stop. Po­lice,’ ‘Po­lice. Don’t move,’ and/or ‘Drop the weapon,’ train of­fi­cers to stop shout­ing those com­mands and at­tempt dif­fer­ent de­fus­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies,” said a 2014 jury that ex­am­ined the deaths of three men­tally ill Toronto res­i­dents shot dead by po­lice.

The lat­est SIU re­port found the of­fi­cer who shot Divers “ex­er­cised all due cau­tion” and “con­sid­ered all of his op­tions be­fore he dis­charged his firearm,” in­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing a Taser.

Divers was shot dead last year.

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Po­lice at the scene of the shoot­ing the morn­ing af­ter.

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