Family of well-known Port Dover man fatally shot files wrongful death lawsuit against Toronto police
The family of the late Rodger Kotanko is filing a civil lawsuit against Toronto Police Service (TPS) after they claim TPS unlawfully executed a search warrant and used excessive force when the 70-year-old gunsmith was fatally shot last November.
“The Kotanko family is holding Toronto police to account, so this doesn’t happen to someone else,” Michael Smitiuch of Smitiuch Injury Law PC, the lawyer representing the Kotanko family, said in the statement.
“Rodger Kotanko wasn’t able to defend himself, or his reputation, but his family will.”
The Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU), who is currently assigned to investigating the incident, said Toronto police officers were executing a search warrant at a home on Port Ryerse Road around 12 p.m on Nov. 3, when a 70-year-old man, later identified as Kotanko, was shot and taken to hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
It remains unclear what led to the shooting but Toronto Police have confirmed that one of their officers discharged their firearm.
According to Tuesday’s statement, the Kotanko family is seeking $23 million in damages from the Toronto Police Services Board, the five officers involved in the incident, including the officer who fired the fatal shots, as well as Inspector Norman Proctor, head of the Gun & Gang Task Force and Police Chief James Ramer.
The statement of claim, reviewed by CTV News Toronto and which a spokesperson for the Kotanko family says has been submitted to the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice, alleges that the search warrant used on Nov. 3 was unlawfully executed, as it was “allegedly not presented the day of the raid and obtained using irrelevant and prejudicial information.”
The statement of claim also alleges that police “recklessly targeted Kotanko, negligently planned the raid and exercised excessive and unjustifiable force when they stormed his home workshop on Port Ryerse Road, firing four shots into him.”
Finally, it is alleged that the officers unlawfully detained and restrained Kotanko’s wife after he was fatally shot, preventing her from providing care and comfort to him in his final moments and furthering her mental distress.
The latest update from the SIU, issued on Nov. 18, states that five witness officials and two civilian witnesses have been interviewed and that investigators have collected one police-issued firearm from the scene, which was sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences for analysis.
The SIU has not revealed whether the Toronto police officer who fired the gun has agreed to an interview.
A SEARCH FOR ANSWERS
Since November, Kotanko’s family has been adamant in their search for answers.
“We're just baffled," Kotanko's sister, Suzanne Kantor, said at a press conference in late November. "We want answers, we want to know why it happened."
"He told me that he'd probably die sitting at his bench," his brother, Jeffrey Kotanko, said. "But, I don't think he ever imagined or that he'd be gunned down for no reason while sitting at his bench."
At the time, Smitiuch said they hadn’t seen the warrant police had to search Rodger's shop, and questioned why Toronto police responded in the first place.
"They came, they travelled 150 kilometres with their own ambulance," he said. "Why?"
The family also said the SIU wasn't communicating with them at the time.
"In particular, the lead investigator, he has not even returned my email or call at all," Smitiuch said.
On Tuesday, Smitiuch said he has recently heard from the SIU and has been updated several times since November.
With files from CTV Kitchener's Katherine Hill.
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