Const. Andrew Doyle, who shot and killed Andrew Loku, testified at a coroner’s inquest on Wednesday.
A Toronto police officer who fatally shot a hammer-wielding man in the city two years ago said Wednesday he had no choice but to open fire in order to stop what he saw as a threat to his life.
Const. Andrew Doyle spoke publicly about his role in the death of Andrew Loku for the first time as he testified at a coroner’s inquest into the man’s death, which had sparked days of protest from the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter.
Doyle recalled drawing his gun and pointing it at Loku after spotting the man holding a hammer in an apartment building hallway shortly after midnight on July 5, 2015.
The officer said he shouted at Loku repeatedly to drop his weapon but then fired twice when the man, who was about 7.5 metres away, started walking towards him and his partner with the hammer raised.
“I was afraid for my life,” he told the inquest. “We’re trained to stop the threat. Two rounds stops the threat. He immediately fell to the ground. There was no need for anything else.”
Asked whether he could have shot Loku’s arm or leg instead, Doyle said police training called for officers to aim for the “centre mass.”
He also said using another weapon, such as a baton or pepper spray, would not have been enough, and he was not carrying a stun gun at the time.
Some observers at the inquest wiped their eyes as they heard the officer describe the events that led to Loku’s death.
Doyle himself briefly appeared emotional as he recalled the moments after the shooting. “I believe I was in a state of shock,” he said, his voice cracking.
“It felt like time was standing still,” until other officers arrived at the scene, he said.
Doyle said Loku collapsed almost like a felled tree after being shot and the hammer the man was holding bounced towards the officer, who kicked it away.
At the time, the constable recalled, his concern was to ensure that Loku wasn’t carrying another weapon.
“Then I noticed blood pooling, a lot,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, the inquest heard a 911 call from a woman who said Loku had threatened to kill her friend.
Ontario’s police watchdog has found that the officer who shot Loku did not exceed the range of justifiable force.
The Special Investigations Unit said the officers had their guns drawn and repeatedly told Loku to drop the hammer as he walked towards them, but he was shot twice when he came within two or three metres of one officer.
After the SIU’s findings were released last year, the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter camped out in front of Toronto police headquarters for days and marched on the provincial legislature to call for an overhaul of Ontario’s police watchdog and the release of the name of the officer who shot Loku.
The inquest in Loku’s death began June 5 and is expected to hear from approximately 20 witnesses.