The province’s Special Investigations Unit has cleared a Hamilton police officer of any wrongdoing in the February shooting death of a 27-year-old man near Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School.
SIU director Ian Scott said Const. Ryan Tocher’s use of lethal force against Phonesay Chanthachack was legally justified because the officer “honestly and reasonably believed” his life was imperiled.
According to the investigation, Tocher and his fellow officers were staking out a stolen van in a parking lot on Albright Roads the early afternoon of Feb. 13 when Chanthachack entered the vehicle and tried to drive away.
Tocher attempted to prevent the van’s exit with his minivan as another officer’s unmarked car blocked the vehicle from the rear.
The van backed up and pushed the rear car, and then drove at Tocher, who had withdrawn his gun and ordered the driver to stop and put his hands up.
The driver continued and Tocher fired two shots. The first hit Chanthachack in the right wrist and the second, fatal one, in his chest.
Scott said the investigation, which included interviews with Tocher, seven witness officers and 12 civilian witnesses, determined the van hit Tocher around the time he fired the first shot.
“By his actions, Mr. Chanthachack made it clear that he was prepared to put others in imminent danger in an attempt to extract himself from the police block and flee from apprehension,” Scott said in a June 8 news release on the results of the probe.
“The subject officer was directly in his path and was impacted by the fleeing vehicle,” he said. “The officer honestly and reasonably believed his self-preservation to be dependent on stopping the continued movement of the van by disabling its driver.”
The SIU is an independent agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. It assigned seven investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the shooting.