As has been documented numerous times on this site the families of people killed by police in Canada are routinely denied even basic information about the police actions in which their loved ones were killed. This includes information about the officers directly responsible for the killings. The situation is not addressed through provincial investigation units since killer cops are not required to provide statements to such units and, of course, typically choose not to. Thus families are left with no recourse but to file lawsuits against killer cops and the forces that protect them in order to gain even basic insights into the events that took their loved ones’ lives.
The family of Anthony Heffernan, killed by a multiple killer cop two years ago, has had to take the route of a lawsuit against the Calgary Police Service (CPS) in an attempt to find answers that have so far been denied to them. They also hope the lawsuit will result in changes to the department and prevent similar killings. The lawsuit is seeking $225,000 to cover the cost of Anthony Heffernan’s funeral, lost wages, and grief counseling required by the family. In August of 2016, the Heffernan family found out that the officer who killed Anthony would not face any charges. A statement of claim in the lawsuit argues there “was an excessive and unlawful use of force” in Anthony Heffernan’s killing. In the lawsuit the family also claim that some or all of the service members involved in the incident created notes and reports that were “false, misleading, containing omissions or exaggerations” (quoted in Potkin 2017). The family is also appealing the decision not to bring charges.
Anthony Heffernan was tasered and shot four times and killed by an officer after police broke into the hotel room in which the young man was staying in the city’s northeast in March 2015. All of this happened within 72 seconds of police entering the room (Potkins 2017). He was alone in the room and posed no threat to anyone outside the room, certainly he posed no threat to the public. He did not leave the room and posed no threat officers or anyone else in the hallway. The officer who killed Anthony Heffernan was not suspended and killed another man while on duty only a few months after the Heffernan killing.
Grant Heffernan, Anthony’s brother, explains the lawsuit as follows: “The point is we want is police accountability for their actions. It’s not about the money. It’s about hopefully going to trial and getting unanswered questions that we’ve had from the beginning” (quoted in CTV 2017).
The defendants listed in the lawsuit include former interim police chief Paul Cook along with five CPS members. Four of the officers are identified as John Doe while one officer is identified as Constable McLoughlin (no first name), said to be the killer cop. Patrick Heffernan, Anthony’s father, notes that police have never identified who the five officers at and the family only learned the surname of the killer cop McLoughlin through ASIRT (Potkin 2017).
In yet another of the numerous cases in which the courts protect killer cops, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) ruled that there was potential for charges in the killing of Anthony Heffernan only to see prosecutors not bring charges because they were of the view that there was “no reasonable likelihood of conviction” (Potkins 2017). ASIRT concluded that Heffernan had his hands in the air at the time police shot and killed him.
The Heffernan family notes, with disappointment, that while the ASIRT investigation included statements from four of the officers in the room when Anthony was killed it did not include statements from the officer who killed their loved one. While they, like other family members of victims of police killings, cannot believe this was not part of the investigation it is, in fact a protection all killer cops enjoy.
The family hopes that the civil suit will finally ensure that the officer provides a first-hand account of why he shot Anthony multiple times.
CTV. 2017. “The Family of a Man Shot and Killed by Police is Suing Calgary Police” CTV News Calgary. April 11. http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/the-family-of-a-man-shot-and-killed-by-police-is-suing-calgary-police-1.3364792
Potkin, Meghan. 2017. “Anthony Heffernan’s Family Suing Calgary Police.” Calgary Herald. April 10. http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/heffernan-family-suing-calgary-police-for-more-than-40000-after-fatal-shooting