The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has cleared a Niagara Regional Police officer of any criminal offence in the fatal shooting of a man on the Niagara River Parkway almost a year ago.
After a Jan. 5 pursuit that had begun just under an hour earlier on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls, police forced a stolen pickup truck driven by 27-year-old Martin Gordyn off the Parkway near Line 3 and surrounded the vehicle with their cruisers.
Officers left their vehicles and converged on the pickup. According to the SIU report, one officer discharged his firearm twice at Gordyn, who was pronounced dead that afternoon at the Niagara Falls hospital.
The incident started when the NRPS responded to reports of a possible impaired driver from a business on Lundy’s Lane. An employee of the business said a man and a woman, later identified as 29-year-old Lindsey Archer of Dundas, were unconscious in a pickup truck. NRPS officers arrived and the occupants of the truck fled in the vehicle. That same vehicle had been involved in several pursuits earlier in the day in Welland, and also in Hamilton.
A short time later, NRPS officers attempted to use a spike belt on the Niagara Parkway near York Road, with no success. A rolling vehicle block was also attempted. A Niagara Parks Police Service cruiser was then rammed by the vehicle.
Cruisers continued to follow the pickup truck along the Parkway. At about 2:21 p.m., the cruisers forced the truck off the road and into the east ditch, north of the intersection and to the east of the footpath, where Gordyn spun the wheels of the F-150 in an attempt to flee once again.
Officers approached the truck, asking the suspects to step out, and they refused. There was an attempt to break a window to open the door, and when that failed, pepper spray was applied through a rear window, but Gordyn and Archer remained inside.
When Gordyn was seen reaching into a duffle bag, an officer, fearing he was reaching for a gun, fired, hitting Gordyn in his shoulder. The driver continued to rifle through the duffle bag, coming up with what the officer thought was a gun. He fired another round through the rear window of the truck at Gordyn, this one proving fatal.
In his ruling, SIU Director Joseph Martino said he was satisfied that the officer “believed the complainant was reaching for a gun when he initially discharged his firearm, and that the complainant had retrieved a gun and was about to shoot at the time of the second shot.”
The item Gordyn had retrieved from the duffle bag was later identified as a butane torch, often used to vaporize methamphetamine. Shaped like a garden hose nozzle, Martino said it was reasonable for the officer to have mistaken the torch for a gun.
“I am satisfied that the officer, at the time of the shooting, discharged his weapon in the reasonable belief that it was necessary to do so to protect himself from death,” Martino concluded.
The pickup truck driven by Gordyn was reported stolen in the Hamilton area on Dec. 15, 2020. On the morning of Jan. 5, a Hamilton Police Service officer spotted the truck blocking the drive-through lane of a Tim Hortons in Winona. The engine of the truck was running, and the driver was asleep behind the wheel.
The driver of the pickup truck drove away, and the vehicle was last seen travelling at high speed eastbound on Highway 8 toward oncoming traffic. The NRPS and OPP were alerted but the Hamilton officer did not pursue the vehicle.
The three police services continued to communicate throughout the day on the whereabouts of the F-150, and it is believed the truck struck both a house and another vehicle in an attempt to escape pursuit. The OPP had also applied a spike belt earlier in the day in an attempt to stop the truck.
In his SIU ruling, Martino pointed to the havoc caused by Gordyn beginning when the officer had spotted the truck in
“By the time his truck was effectively immobilized by the side of the road, the complainant had led police officers from four police services on an hours’ long rampage through the streets of several jurisdictions. The lives of third-parties had been directly imperiled as the complainant ran stop signs and red lights, grossly exceeded the speed limit, travelled in oncoming lanes of traffic, and struck objects along his path. No reasonable person would have been in any doubt of the complainant’s dogged determination to escape police apprehension at any cost.”
“I am unable to fault the officer for approaching the open rear driver side window with his gun drawn and pointed at the complainant,” Martino continued. “In the circumstances, the officer was entitled to defend himself from an imminent and reasonably apprehended danger to life and limb. Thereafter, when the officer believed he saw a firearm in the complainant’s hand, he was similarly justified in meeting a potentially lethal attack with lethal force of his own.”
Archer, who originally gave police a false name at the scene, had been under a court order to remain at home at the time of the shooting. She pleaded guilty in February in Ontario Court of Justice in St. Catharines to charges of obstructing police and failing to comply with a court order.
Archer was sentenced to time served and placed on probation for 12 months.