deadmonton 2010 - bernadette auger

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Bernadette Auger, 48, was shot dead by police on January 16th, 2010.

Auger was Edmonton's second homicide victim of the year.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is investigating.

the question of the gun

Edmonton police are under investigation in connection with the city's second homicide of 2010 – the officer-involved shooting of Bernadette Auger.

CTV Edmonton image

At about 2:20 p.m. Saturday, January 16th a report of a woman carrying around what appeared to be a small handgun brought police to an apartment building at 8411 119 Avenue.

When officers arrived the woman was standing outside the building. She went back inside and at about 2:35 p.m. she emerged with what looked like a gun in her hand.

Police blockaded the area and a heavy police presence descended.

Edmonton Journal image

Witnesses then reported hearing at least two gunshots.

CTV Edmonton - Canadian Press image
CTV Edmonton image CTV Edmonton image

An ambulance was called and the woman received emergency care at the scene. She was later pronounced dead after being taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Details soon emerged that a police officer had shot the woman after she had pointed a weapon directly at him.

CTV Edmonton image

A building caretaker, who was a close friend of the victim, told the media the woman was 48-year-old Bernadette Auger.

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Global Edmonton image Global Edmonton image

Homicide detectives arrived at the scene around 4:30 p.m. Edmonton Police Association President Sgt. Tony Simioni was the first official to brief media on what had happened – read more »

Soon after, Clifton Purvis, executive director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) arrived to lead the investigation. He later briefed media – read more »

A female officer was also bitten in the leg during the incident, apparently by a dog belonging to the police canine unit.

Three men, thought to be in their early 20s, were taken into custody for questioning. Their relationship to the female victim remains unknown.

According to an Edmonton Police Service statement issued later in the day, two officers had responded to a report of "trouble not known" and were confronted by a female with a handgun. When the armed female didn't respond to the officers' several commands, two shots were fired by the EPS.

Global Edmonton image Global Edmonton image

Building tenants and friends of the woman painted a disturbing picture of events leading up to the shooting – read more »

It later emerged that alcohol, pills and anger had fueled the day's unfortunate incident – read more »

The question of the gun

Soon after the shooting, debate arose over whether the gun the woman was carrying was real or a toy replica. The question was put to Edmonton Police Association President Sgt. Tony Simioni.

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"Obviously that's not something an officer can tell," Simioni said. "You have to operate as if the gun is real."

About the possibilty the gun was fake, Simioni hedged his bets.

"I've heard reports of that ... I haven't been informed that that has been definitively conclusive."

Two days after the shooting, ASIRT's executive director Clifton Purvis confirmed details of the type of weapon the woman had in her possesion before she was shot.

CTV Edmonton image

It also marked the first time the woman was officially identified as Bernadette Auger.

Purvis outlined the series events that took place on January 16th.

Police were first called to the scene at about 2:07 p.m. When two officers arrived, they confronted Bernadette Auger, who appeared to have a handgun.

Auger went back inside the building and the officers remained outside, Purvis said.

The woman remained in the apartment building for up to 20 minutes and then re-emerged for a second confrontation with police, he said.

By that time the two officers had called for backup. Several other officers, including the police canine unit, had arrived.

"After being confronted by police, police fired their weapons two times.

"Ms. Auger was shot twice. She was struck on two occasions as a result of being shot by two separate members of the Edmonton Police Service."

Both shots were fired at the same time, he said, at about 2:35 p.m.

"The item itself that she was holding, the replica handgun, had been altered. It had been painted dark so that it was more similar to the functioning handgun that it was a copy of."

Purvis said the weapon was a spring-powered air pistol intended to shoot small plastic BBs. The Airsoft pistol can be purchased for about 25 dollars. image

Normally manufactured in clear plastic, Purvis said someone had painted it to make it look like a Sig Sauer P230, a .32 calibre handgun.

Edmonton Police Service image

Sig Sauer, the North American representative of Swiss/German manufacturing firm Swiss Arms AG, supplies guns to one-third of all U.S police forces. The actual weapon seized at the scene is pictured at right.

Global Edmonton image

"I can tell you that Ms. Auger was holding what appeared to be a black handgun. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not they look the same," Purvis challenged media.

"That item was seized from the scene. It has been examined and it is not a functioning firearm. Rather, it is what can be best described as a replica of a small Sig handgun," he added.

Purvis added that the investigation will continue to determine whether the officers' actions were appropriate.

"One of the things we are considering in the course of this and any other ASIRT investigation is were the actions of the police justified in all of the circumstances.

"One of the circumstances that we'll consider is were they reasonable in their belief that this was a functioning handgun. And so to examine the handgun and how it appeared and how it appeared to others is critical."

Purvis refused to identify the officers who fired the shots and wouldn't say if they were among the first officers to arrive on the scene. He did note the officers did not arrive together.

One officer had 13 years experience while the other had 18 months, he said.

Purvis said another officer was bitten on the leg by a police dog almost immediately after the shots were fired. That officer was treated for bite-related injuries and is doing fine, he said.

An autopsy report, to confirm the woman's identity and determine her cause of death, was scheduled to have been completed January 18th.

The last Edmonton police-involved death took place on May 10th, 2009 when 36-year-old Shawn Michael Price was shot by officers in front of an apartment building at 10207 107 Avenue.

The Edmonton Police Service website entry for Bernadette Auger can be seen here.

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