Licensing 5 guns to Alta. man with mental problems 'lacked common sense': judge

CALGARY -- A fatality inquiry judge is calling for stricter reviews of gun licence applications after a southern Alberta man with a history of mental problems was fatally shot by police.

See Full Article

Corey Lewis, 39, was shot outside his Okotoks home in July 2010 after a standoff with an RCMP tactical team.

He was found holding a dark-coloured umbrella that he had pointed at officers, who thought the object was a weapon.

Provincial court Judge Marlene Graham says she finds it disturbing that Lewis was granted licences for five firearms, including restricted weapons, despite his mental problems, a suicide attempt and a previous emergency protection order.

"I do find that Mr. Lewis's possession of the five long-barreled guns was an integral part of the event leading up to his death," Graham wrote in a report released Monday.

"I find that the screening process used to grant the gun licences to Mr. Lewis lacked diligence and common sense and gives me no assurance that public safety, which is the purpose of the Firearms Act, was being sufficiently emphasized throughout the process."

Graham recommends better screening for firearms licence applicants, including a telephone interview with the applicant's spouse.

She also recommends that police consult with mental-health professionals when dealing with armed people in standoffs to help get them to surrender.

The report says that in the hours before he was shot, Lewis was angry and distraught.

After knocking his wife down and punching his stepson, Lewis's family fled the house, contacted RCMP and told the Mounties that he was in the bedroom with five guns and ammunition.

Some officers entered the house but quickly retreated when Lewis confronted them holding a shotgun.

RCMP called in a tactical team of 20, including a sniper, to surround the house.

After hours of trying to contact him by telephone, Lewis came out of the house in the dark, hunched over with his arms bent. A Mountie shone a light on Lewis and police thought the umbrella he was holding was a weapon. Officers opened fire.

Mounties found a bloodstained document under his body with the words "Take My Life" printed on one side.

The other side said: "I am gone but know this -- RCMP entering a residence with guns drawn is an ACT of WAR!!!!!"

During the inquiry, Barry Benkendorf, lawyer for the RCMP, said Lewis caused officers to shoot him. The lawyer called it a case of "suicide by cop."

Graham ruled the death a homicide.

Widow Naydene Lewis said she is pleased overall with the report and its recommendations. But she wishes RCMP had used more lighting around the house and had contacted her husband's mental-health providers.

"Corey made a choice. Personally I think it was a medically induced choice because he was on several different medications for his mental health," she said in an interview.

"Ultimately the police did their job. So I don't begrudge them."

The report notes that Daniel Magotiaux, Alberta's chief firearms officer, testified that a policy change was made last year to require a medical check of gun licence applicants if there is a mental health concern.

But Graham wrote that the officer also testified that despite the change, the licence for a restricted weapon would still be granted today because Naydene Lewis had signed her husband's application and hadn't filed a complaint.

Graham wrote this policy places undue responsibility on the applicant's spouse.

The chief firearms officer, who is a Mountie, was not immediately available for comment.

Fatality inquiries don't assess blame but make recommendations on how to avoid similar deaths.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 'Extreme' winter weather hits Canada

    Canada News CTV News
    An “intense winter storm” could slam parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada this weekend, bringing with it “major” snowfall of 30 cm or higher, according to Environment Canada. “While it is difficult to give details this far in advance, all indications show a major snowfall event (for the Maritimes),” the department website reads. Source
  • Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso found dead

    Canada News CBC News
    A Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso has been found dead, says his family, two days after he was abducted. Kirk Woodman, originally from Halifax, was abducted Tuesday night by a dozen gunmen at a mining site owned by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals near the border with Niger, in an area the government says is under growing threat from armed jihadists. Source
  • Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso is dead

    Canada News CTV News
    CTV News has confirmed that a Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso has been found dead. Kirk Woodman was working for Vancouver-based Progress Mineral Mining Company. A spokesperson for Burkina Faso's security ministry said Woodman was abducted during a raid of a local mining site in the northern party of the country. Source
  • Defence to question forensics officer at Dennis Oland murder trial

    Canada News CTV News
    SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- A forensics officer is back on the stand today at the Dennis Oland murder trial, this time facing defence questions. Sgt. Mark Smith of Saint John police has recounted for the court the collection of over 500 pieces of evidence from the scene where multi-millionaire Richard Oland was bludgeoned to death, and from searches relating to his son Dennis. Source
  • Defence chief admits slower-than-expected growth in female representation

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's top military officer admits there has been slower progress than expected to get more women into the Canadian Forces. New figures show there has been only a small increase in the number of women in the military over the last two years, but Gen. Source
  • Eskasoni grieving after multiple 'expected and unexpected' deaths

    Canada News CBC News
    Nova Scotia's largest Mi'kmaw community is grieving after what the band council calls multiple "expected and unexpected" deaths. The Eskasoni First Nation council said in a statement yesterday the community in eastern Cape Breton is going through a difficult time. Source
  • Global pushback against autocrats grows, says rights watchdog

    World News CBC News
    The world is seeing growing resistance against the abuses of autocrats as states, civic groups and popular movements all push back against populists seeking to curtail freedoms, according to a new global report released Thursday that also outlines where Canada is both advancing and falling short in its efforts. Source
  • New Hampshire toddler escapes home, found dead in freezing temperatures

    World News CTV News
    NEWPORT, N.H. -- A New Hampshire toddler, barefoot and clad only in a nightgown, was found dead early Monday in bitter cold weather just feet from her front door after she managed to get out of her house and couldn't get back in. Source
  • 3 young children die after getting trapped in chest freezer

    World News CTV News
    LIVE OAK, Fla. - Authorities in Florida say three young children playing outside climbed into an unplugged chest freezer and died when they couldn't get out. The Suwannee County Sheriff's Office says the children, ages 1, 4, and 6, couldn't be revived when they were found Sunday at a home in Live Oak in north Florida. Source
  • Kenya still hunts for explosives after deadly hotel attack

    World News CTV News
    NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenyan bomb disposal experts on Thursday searched for explosives left over from the deadly extremist attack on a Nairobi luxury hotel complex in which 21 people, plus five attackers, were killed. The Kenyan government said its quick reaction to Tuesday's assault on the DusitD2 complex reflected improvements in its ability to respond to such brazen assaults on civilian targets. Source