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Family of 19-year-old who died after being shot by police searching for answers

A 19-year-old man shot and killed by police on Sunday afternoon was armed with knives, police say.

Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba takes over officer-involved shooting case

A man smiling.

The family of a 19-year-old who died after being shot by police over the weekend are searching for answers about what happened to their loved one, who they say was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of the incident.

Afolabi Stephen Opaso was an international student originally from Nigeria who studied at the University of Manitoba, says a lawyer who is in contact with and is assisting the family.

"That's just the first thing, was [the] shot necessary?" said Jean-René Dominique Kwilu. "Because if the issue was to unarm the person, was the shot necessary?"

Police responded to a report of a possibly armed man acting erratically at an apartment building at 77 University Cres. at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Officers encountered a man armed with two knives when they arrived and shot him, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth told reporters during a Monday news conference.

Opaso was taken to hospital in critical condition and died from his injuries.

Kwilu said it's unclear right now what caused police to shoot Opaso.

"At this point, [what's] shocking is just to arrive at … that deadly gunshot," he said.

Winnipeg police also didn't say on Monday if Opaso had attacked police.

Smyth said police do not know much about the man who died.

"I think we had one other encounter with him, sometime last July, where we assisted him by providing him with a ride," he said. "He has no other record with us, and certainly no criminal record. We think he may have been a student at the [University of Manitoba]."

Not a hostage situation: police chief

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba has been notified and taken over the investigation.

"As soon as there's a death involved, we kind of put the brakes on investigating it," the police chief said. "It's not our jurisdiction."

The man was inside of a suite in the apartment with a 19-year-old woman and man, 21, Smyth said, adding the three appeared to know each other — although it's not clear whether the man who died was a resident or visitor at the apartment.

The other two people in the suite are safe and now considered witnesses, he said.

The call to police was made by someone in the suite, but police do not believe it was a hostage situation, Smyth said: "I don't get that sense from the original information, but the caller was quite concerned."

There were six officer-involved shootings in 2022, three of which resulted in deaths, according to Winnipeg police data.

Meanwhile, this is the second officer-involved shooting in Winnipeg in a week. On Thursday, a man was shot dead by officers during a hostage situation in the city's West Broadway area.

Smyth said the two incidents were different events and circumstances.

"Clearly they're not related," he said, "but we go to thousands of calls every week, and we deal with what we have."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Özten Shebahkeget is Anishinaabe/Turkish Cypriot and a member of Northwest Angle 33 First Nation who grew up in Winnipeg’s North End. She joined CBC Manitoba in 2021 through the inaugural Pathways program. She is also a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan's master of fine arts in writing program.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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