LILLEY: We deserve answers about police shooting of 70 year-old man

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Last Wednesday, Toronto Police shot and killed a 70-year-old man. You likely haven’t heard a thing about it.

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Part of the reason for that may be that the shooting happened nearly 150 kilometres away on a rural road outside of Port Dover.

Rodger Kotanko was shot once in the neck and three times in the chest. He was later pronounced dead at hospital.

The shooting has rocked the normally quiet area and has locals asking lots of questions such as why Toronto Police were executing the warrant and why they busted in guns ablazing? They’ll have to await answers for some time.

Toronto Police aren’t commenting on the matter, now under investigation by the province’s Special Investigations Unit, which oversees incidents where people are injured or killed when interacting with police.

The SIU said little other than the incident was contained in a short news release issued on the afternoon of Nov. 4.

“At about 12:04 p.m., in the course of Toronto Police Service officers executing a search warrant, shots were fired near a residence in the area of Hwy. 6 and Hwy. 24. One man is deceased,” the news release stated.

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One police officer is the subject of the investigation. Three others are considered witnesses. The SIU itself has five investigators on the case, including two forensic investigators.

Other than asking the public for any information, including video clips that could help investigators, the SIU is staying silent, as is their normal course of action. That isn’t stopping locals from questioning how this happened.

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Toronto Police described the incident in very terse terms on Twitter:

– Toronto officers executed a firearms search warrant

– An officer discharged his or her firearm

– One person has been struck and taken to hospital

Friends and acquaintances of Kotanko are describing the incident in very different terms.

They describe police as executing the search warrant without notice, kicking in the door to Kotanko’s workshop, and opening fire right away.

Kotanko was a renowned gunsmith with clients from across the country, even the United States and Europe. He also looked after guns for members of the local OPP detachment.

“He has guns because he’s a gunsmith. He had a customer with him, too. That’s what Rodger has always done. He was a gunsmith. He kept to himself. He was harmless,” neighbour Fraser Pringle told the Simcoe Reformer last week.

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Harmless, gentle, trustworthy, a true friend — these are some of the ways those who knew Kotanko have described him. He’s also someone who was slow-moving — “as slow as a sloth,” said one friend — due to health issues.

Why police would kick open the door and open fire has locals baffled. As does the fact that Toronto Police Service didn’t even alert the Norfolk County OPP detachment that they were executing the warrant.

The police officers executing the warrant were at the place of business of a licensed and registered gunsmith. If the excuse for opening fire immediately after kicking in the door is that Kotanko had a gun in his hand, they should have expected that.

He’s a gunsmith who worked with, altered, and fixed guns and he had a license to do so.

On the face of it, this appears to be a case of a police officer quite literally jumping the gun with deadly effect. We won’t know what truly happened for quite a while; SIU investigations take four to six months, but sometimes longer.

In the meantime, locals have a message to Toronto Police: Keep your cops and your crime in the city, and don’t come knocking in Norfolk County anytime soon.

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