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Inquest hears from OPP officers who shot Exeter, Ont. man

A mandatory inquest into the shooting death of Wade Vander Wal heard from the OPP officers who fatally shot the Exeter native on Dec. 3, 2019.

Det. Const. Brady Siddal was the first OPP officer to arrive at 65 Simcoe St. for a call of a possible fire in the home and a man unwilling to leave the house. Siddal said he went to the door and pleaded with Vander Wal, who lived in the home with his mother, to leave the house.

He said he saw smoke looking in the front door and feared for Vander Wal’s safety. After calling for backup, he said he decided to use a battering ram to break down the door, but once he did, he said Vander Wal immediately came outside, and starting swinging an axe over his head in a threatening manner.

A fellow officer tried to subdue Vander Wal with a Taser, but it was not effective.

“I absolutely feared for my life. That’s when I discharged my firearm,” said Siddal.

Siddal said Vander Wal fell to his knees after being shot, but was still swinging an axe. He was Tasered again, which was effective, as Siddal tried to wrestle the axe away from Vander Wal. During that struggle, Vander Wal was shot again by Siddal’s fellow officers.

In all, he was shot 11 times and later died in hospital.

The SIU spent much of the day investigating the police involved shooting in Exeter, on December 4, 2019. (Scott Miller / CTV London)

Danielle Landry, the lawyer for the Vander Wal family, questioned whether more negotiation could have happened before Siddal battered down Vander Wal’s door. She also questioned the seriousness of the fire, and whether it required such aggressive action to gain entry to the home.

“I truly believe I acted appropriately given the circumstances. I didn’t believe there was time for more negotiation,” said Siddal.

The 44-year-old Vander Wal had a history of mental illness, suffering from bipolar disorder, and had trouble communicating due to two strokes. The inquest heard that while Vander Wal was usually kind, quiet, and peaceful, he had grown more agitated in the days leading up to the fatal shooting following the death of his uncle.

Siddal and his fellow Huron County OPP officers were cleared of any wrongdoing in regards to Vander Wal’s death by the province’s Special Investigations Unit in 2020.

The mandatory inquest is designed to try and prevent future deaths in similar scenarios.

“It will be worth it if there’s a chance that change can be made that will prevent even one more person from losing their life in a mental health crisis, or one other family having to go through this process,” say Vander Wal’s mother and sister, Diane Vander Wal and Sandy Heyink.

The virtual inquest based in London is expected to last a week-and-a-half, and hear from 11 witnesses. Top Stories


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