Police watchdog says Anthony Divers, 36, represented threat
Officer cleared in shooting death
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.
Police at the scene of the shooting the morning after.