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Inner workings of OPP highlighted in ongoing inquest into death of Tecumseh man

An SUI vehicle and crime-scene tape are seen at the house of a fatal shooting in Tecumseh on Saturday, June 15, 2019. An SUI vehicle and crime-scene tape are seen at the house of a fatal shooting in Tecumseh on Saturday, June 15, 2019.
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The inquest into the death of Derek Teskey, 48, who was shot and killed by police after a physical altercation with officers turned deadly, continued Tuesday.

OPP officers involved in the shooting were later cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) — a watchdog agency that investigates officers involved in injury or death to civilians.

A mandatory inquest into the circumstances surrounding Teskey’s death on June 14, 2019 started Monday in front of a jury of five people who cannot lay blame or find criminal fault, but they will be tasked with drafting preventative recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

OPP constables Alan Chronopolous and Chris Truppe testified Tuesday.

Both were dispatched to a home in the town of Tecumseh for a man who was barricaded in a bathroom, armed with an “edged weapon” and threatening to harm himself.

Evidence of Const. Truppe

The jury learned Truppe was one of the main officers communicating with Teskey, attempting to have him surrender to be taken to hospital for medical assessment.

At the time, authorities believe Teskey was in a “drug induced psychosis” based upon his substance use disorder and bipolar diagnosis.

When he stopped communicating, closed the door and turned on the tap in the sink, officers Truppe, Chronopolous and Trevor Davies made the decision to enter the bathroom.

“At that moment in time I believe that we had the duty to preserve life. I believe Mr. Teskey was self harming himself,” Truppe testified. “I think standing outside would not have been the correct decision.”

Truppe said the situation escalated very quickly with Teskey retaliating on officers, a physical fight starting and the group of men falling down a small flight of stairs.

“At a point you could say we were fearing for our lives with the actions he (Teskey) had taken,” Truppe testified. “I had just witnessed Mr. Teskey tossing around other officers. I observed him having weapons in his hands. I observed my Taser (CEW) being ineffective with Mr. Teskey.”

Truppe does not believe their other ‘use of force’ tools like pepper spray or their batons would have been effective because of the confined space.

He told the jury pepper spray within the confines of the bathroom would have harmed the other officer in the room by “cross contamination.”

Truppe advised the coroners counsel a shield could have been effective to assist officers in protecting themselves in similar situations.

And, the officer wondered if ARWEN – the acronym for ‘anti-riot weapon enfield’ – which is a firearm that shoots rubber bullets, might be another tool for officers.

Truppe noted however, ARWEN can be lethal if deployed in close proximity.

Evidence of Const. Chronopolous:

“We typically try to slow everything down and contain the residence,” Chronopolous told the jury, when explaining his role on the Emergency Response Team (ERT) of the Essex County detachment of the OPP.

That day however, Chronopolous attended as a patrol officer to the scene although he doesn’t recall if he was asked by a dispatcher or if he and a K9 officer decided to respond on their own.

The jury heard Monday Sgt. Davies – the highest ranking officer on the scene – requested the ERT and K9 to assist in the call, while they waited for the Tactics and Rescue Unit (TRU) to respond.

The ERT is made up of Essex County detachment officers who have some higher levels of training, for things like evidence collection, VIP escorts, witness protection, scene containment and high risk takedowns, according to Chronopolous.

The TRU is based in London and Davies estimated it would take them more than an hour and a half to respond to Tecumseh.

“We didn’t have the time to wait for TRU,” Chronopolous told the jury.

Chronopolous was one of the officers who entered the bathroom where Teskey was hiding, after he stopped communicating with police.

He told the jury Teskey was in the bathtub when they entered, with a pair of scissors in his hand and clutching a pillow to his chest.

Chronopolous told the jury he tried to take the pillow away so he could use his conducted energy weapon (CEW) more effectively (i.e. one probe attaches to the upper body and one probe in the lower body).

The officer tried to deploy his CEW from a distance of two feet, but it was not effective.

“I believe five to ten feet (distance) is ideal,” Chronopolous testified for “a muscle lock up.”

Then, Chronopolous says Teskey “rushed at all of us.”

“It was super quick,” Chronopolous said from this point. “I’m not sure how we fell down the stairs.”

He told the jury a physical altercation continued at the bottom of the stairs with Teskey on his back when the officer recalls feeling a sharp pain in his arm.

“I assumed I was stabbed,” Chronopolous said.

He left the residence with the assistance of another officer because he was bleeding and was taken by one set of paramedics to hospital for a non-life-threatening stab wound. Chronopolous was off work for three months and does not have any lasting impact from the injury.

Chronopolous did not witness the shooting of Teskey.

“It would have been nice to slow things down but it was clear Mr. Teskey was intent on harming himself,” Chronopolous testified “I felt like we had no choice but to intervene or slowly watch him kill himself.”

Chronopolous noted if the multiple deployments of the CEW had been effective “we wouldn’t be here.”

The jury heard Monday it was Davis who fired the single round into Teskey’s chest.

The inquest will resume Wednesday morning. 

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