Appeal dismissed: WRPS officer used ‘reasonable force’ in 2018 Cambridge shooting

A Cambridge man’s appeal to the highest court in the province has been dismissed.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled that the trial judge came to the correct conclusion that a Waterloo Regional Police officer did not use excessive force in an incident in Cambridge from March, 2018.

Sgt. Richard Dorling fired his weapon at Joshua Hannaford, now 34, striking him in the thigh. Dorling was charged with attempted murder but the charges have been withdrawn.

The incident began with police officers responding to reports of a stolen van and two rifles. Police followed Hannaford to the Highway 401 and Old Mill Road Area in Cambridge. When Hannaford noticed a police roadblock he “panicked” and took off into a nearby field. The pursuit eventually went on foot.

Before the altercation, officers found the rifles with some ammo missing. This led police to believe Hannaford was armed.

When police located Hannaford on foot, he refused to follow police orders including dropping his bag and raising his hands. Hannaford then turned towards an officer and muttered the words “want to die”.

No gun was found on Hannaford, but a knife was located at the scene.

Hannaford was contesting the trial judge’s ruling that Dorling did not use excessive force against him and that the trial judge “misapprehended the evidence” regarding the “want to die” statement and the “one plus one policy”.

The court defines the one plus one policy as “a police practice to assume that there is another outstanding weapon than the one that has already found.”

The Court of Appeal judge did not agree that the one plus one policy was misused. The court said the argument from Hannaford’s counsel was based on the assumption that the weapon found at the scene must be the same as the weapon already found.

As for the statement, the court also dismissed that claim.

“Whether this was meant and perceived as a direct threat to the officer, or whether the utterance actually reflected the appellant’s wish to be shot and killed by the police, it did not change the emergency situation faced by the officer,” reads the document. “It must be remembered that when [Hannaford] made this utterance, the appellant turned towards the officer and he was armed with a knife.”

Hannaford’s counsel conceded eventually that it was reasonable for the officer to shoot his weapon, but continuing to fire at him after he turned away from the officer was not justifiable.

The court felt this concession failed to bolster their argument.

“In the end the appellant failed to meet his onus to prove that the serious force used that day was unreasonable in all of the circumstances.”

Hannaford was convicted in 2020 on charges of breaking and entering as well as stealing a van, a wallet containing $3,000, two rifles and some ammunition.

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