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Man shot dead by police had bipolar disorder

From Monday's Globe and Mail

A Mississauga man who died in a confrontation with police yesterday suffered from bipolar disorder and had previous run-ins with officers, people who knew him said as they questioned why a mentally ill man had to be fatally shot.

Gregg Moynagh, 25, was shot in the upper part of the body by a Peel Regional Police officer after four patrollers responded to a 911 call about a man causing a disturbance from an apartment balcony, about 1 a.m.

Two knives were found near Mr. Moynagh's body, said John Yoannou, a spokesman for the Special Investigations Unit, the Ontario agency that probes civilian slayings involving police.

Before the officer fired, he was heard shouting at the man, ordering him to drop his knife, a neighbour told CTV News.

A friend, Sylvia Nowak, and two relatives of Mr. Moynagh said the young man was bipolar. He needed medication because of his mental illness.

"He has had run-ins with police before and I'm sure that they had a record of him," Ms. Nowak said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.

"In my opinion, they shouldn't have shot him with the intention to kill. They should've gotten him help, if their job is to protect and serve then that should include the mentally ill."

Bipolar disorder, which used be known as manic depression, can trigger major mood swings, with reckless behaviour and a propensity for suicide.

"He's tried to attack police before," said Jeff Moynagh, a cousin.

Several Canadian cities, including Toronto and Vancouver, have so-called crisis intervention teams that pair a police officer and a mental health worker, such as a nurse, who are called to defuse confrontations with emotionally agitated people. The medical unit of nurses and police officers in Toronto stemmed from recommendations made in several inquests, including the 1997 death of Edmund Yu, a schizophrenic man who was shot and killed by police after he raised a hammer above his head and refused to drop it.

Peel Regional Police would not confirm yesterday if it has such a unit. A spokesman said he could not comment while Mr. Moynagh's death was investigated by the SIU.

At the time of the incident, Mr. Moynagh was at his mother's fifth-floor apartment in a tower on Helene Street North, near the Port Credit Go Train station. He did not live in the building and his mother wasn't home at the time, Mr. Yoannou said.

The 911 call reported a man was screaming and throwing things from a balcony onto the parking lot.

One tower resident, Gisella Barbosa, said she heard a commotion and two loud thuds. One of her neighbours also heard yelling, she said.

Walking down to the fifth floor, she saw a man's body, clad in blue jeans and without shoes, lying in the doorway between the hall and the stairwell.

She asked if someone had been shot. An officer told her she would hear about it in the news.

"It was horrible. Every time I close my eyes I see that person," Ms. Barbosa said, adding that she wondered why police didn't use a taser to stun the man.

"One thing I don't understand, if the guy was having an altercation by himself or throwing things off the balcony, why they would shoot him dead."

On his page on the Facebook networking site, Mr. Moynagh was a member of a discussion group on "Manic-Depressive Illness and Other Mood Disorders."

Various postings on his Facebook page alluded to his mental illness.

On Christmas of last year, he wrote: "Gregg is certified with the government ministry of mental health as manic depressive the cops know me as armed and dangerous."

In a note titled "Adventures from the psychiatric ward," he wrote in July: "So I'm in the looney bin cause I'm a basketcase manic depressive and I go 2 this guy, 'Man I feel like throwing a table through the window and running away' and ten minutes later that's exactly what he did."

Ms. Nowak said Mr. Moynagh had a dry, quirky sense of humour.

"Greg was a good guy. . . . He was always a stand-up guy and well liked by his peers," said a high-school friend, Martin Jay.

"I'm hoping that I'll wake up and this will all be just one bad dream," Brittani Silvestre, another friend, wrote on Mr. Moynagh's Facebook page.

Also yesterday, a man from the small community of Sandringham, Nfld., was in critical condition after being hit by a stun gun. RCMP said they were forced to use the taser on the 29-year-old man on Friday. He was wielding an axe and behaving violently. He used the axe to strike the front of a police vehicle.

With a report from Caroline Alphonso and The Canadian Press

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