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SIU clears York officer in fatal shooting of Vaughan condo gunman

Special Investigations Unit clears York Regional Police officer of criminal wrongdoing in the death of the 73-year-old man who went on a shooting rampage last December, killing five of his neighbours

The province's Special Investigations Unit has cleared a York Regional Police officer of any criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of the 73-year-old Vaughan man who went on "a shooting rampage" last December, killing five of his condominium neighbours.

Following the "horrific incident" at the building at 9235 Jane St. in the evening of Dec. 18, 2022 in which five residents were killed and one seriously injured, York Regional Police identified Francesco Villi as the shooter.

The victims were Rita Camilleri, 57, and her husband, Vittorio Panza, 79, Russell Manock, 75, and his wife, Lorraine, 71 and Naveed Dada, 59. Camilleri, Russell Manock and Dada were members of the condominium's board of directors

One of the first officers to respond to multiple 911 calls from residents fired at the suspect in a hallway after he had refused to put down his gun, according to an SIU news release.

"When the man refused to drop his pistol, and instead raised the hand holding the pistol as if readying to point it at the officer, the officer discharged his weapon four times. The man was struck. Despite officers administering first-aid, the man succumbed to his injuries at the scene," the SIU said.

Five other people were found deceased on three different floors of the building.

"SIU Director Joseph Martino determined there were no reasonable grounds to believe that the officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the shooting," according to the statement. "There was no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file has been closed."

"In my view, the discharge of his firearm by the (officer) fell squarely within the ambit of the justification prescribed by section 34 (of the Criminal Code)," Martino said.

"Confronted by a male at a distance of several metres, armed with a gun having just used it to shoot at multiple persons, it is hard to imagine what else the (officer) could have done in self-defence once the (suspect) raised his gun in the officer’s direction. The situation called for the immediate stopping power of a weapon from a distance, that is, the situation called for the use of a firearm." 

Following interviews with multiple witnesses and gathering of evidence, the SIU is revealing specific details of the incident.

Starting at about 7:20 p.m. Dec. 18, 2022, police began receiving 911 calls, including from a man who had been shot and would later succumb to his injuries. Another call was made by the spouse of a woman who was shot after opening the door to their unit.

The shooter was armed with a Beretta semi-automatic pistol that he had legally purchased in 2019.

Finding the elevator inoperable when he arrived, an officer accessed a stairwell with the intention of searching each floor for the shooter. He found the shooter in the hallway on one of the floors as he was attempting to gain access to a unit.

The officer called out, “Hey,” and with his back to the officer, the shooter took several steps away before turning in a counter-clockwise direction to face him, holding a pistol in his right hand.

"The (officer) had initially thought that the (man) was simply a resident attempting to enter his unit. However, at the sight of the gun, the officer levelled his firearm at the complainant, ordering him to drop the weapon and remain still. The complainant made it clear he was not going to do that, telling the officer to shoot him," the report details.

"The (officer) replied that he did not want to shoot him, and again directed the complainant to drop his gun. When the complainant failed to do so, and instead raised his right hand with the pistol as if readying to point it at the officer, the (officer) discharged his weapon four times."

After Villi was struck twice in the torso by bullets, he stumbled and dropped the gun, then collapsed on the floor.

Other officers began arriving in the hallway and emergency first-aid was administered, including CPR, however, the shooter was pronounced deceased at the scene.

A preliminary autopsy stated Villi's death was caused by gunshot wounds to chest.

The SIU is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving an official where there has been death, serious injury, the discharge of a firearm at a person or an allegation of sexual assault.

Debora Kelly

About the Author: Debora Kelly

Debora Kelly is NewmarketToday's editor. She is an award-winning journalist and communications professional who is passionate about building strong communities through engagement, advocacy and partnership.
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