By Chad Ingram
Two Haliburton Highlands OPP officers who discharged firearms resulting in the fatal shooting of a man last summer have been cleared in an investigation by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.
On the morning of July 15, 2020, a man went to enter the Minden Valu-Mart and when it was requested he wear a face mask to enter, assaulted an employee before using his vehicle to ram vehicles in the store’s parking lot, and speeding away. Police used the licence plate on his vehicle to track him to his residence near Drag Lake. At the residence, there was an interaction between members of the OPP and the man, which resulted in two officers discharging their firearms. The man was subsequently taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead, and his identity was later revealed as Leslie John Hegedus, 73.
The SIU report shows Hegedus had weapons on the property, and had begun firing at police from a concealed location in the bush, with officers returning fire.
“In the course of this exchange, it appears Mr. Hegedus fired further rounds from his rifle before he was incapacitated,” the report reads. “ … Mr. Hegedus’ rifle – a Ruger .223 semi-automatic rifle – was recovered at the scene, together with a magazine loaded with five rounds. The magazine was capable of holding ten rounds. Also recovered at the scene was a Browning .380 semi-automatic pistol with two associated magazines, and a knapsack that contained numerous rounds of .223 and .380 calibre ammunition.”
Thirty-two cartridges were recovered by the SIU, six of which had been fired from Hegedus’s weapon, and combined 26 from the weapons of the two officers.
An autopsy showed Hegedus had sustained three gunshot wounds, with a shot to his right back being determined as the cause of death.
Neighbours reported Hegedus as being someone who kept to himself, and the SIU initially had trouble locating any next of kin.
The Ontario Special Investigations Unit is a civilian oversight body that investigates cases of serious injury, death or allegations of assault involving police officers.