An investigation into an GNWT Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) officer who accidentally shot a man instead of a bear has been completed and no charges were laid, according to an RCMP news release on Tuesday.
The officer was responding to a GNWT call to track an aggressive bear in September 2019 and accidentally shot Dennis Nelner through his home in Fort Simpson instead.
The public prosecution has recommended that no charges be laid and the the ENR officer took reasonable actions “to stop an imminent threat.”
Though the decision was made by public prosecution and Nelner “had no say in the matter,” he told NNSL Media he wasn’t surprised by the decision. “I don’t think there was any criminal intent to hurt me.”
The bullet hit Nelner’s thigh. Almost a year later, he has reached the “maximum level of improvement,” though he said sitting for long periods of time is still painful.
“There is no other medical treatment that will improve the situation,” he said, though Nelner hopes it will continue to heal over time. If not he’s “just going to have to live with what it is right now.”
While Nelner said being forced to be more mobile has sparked a lifestyle change for the better, the pain of sitting for too long has impacted Nelner’s employment.
“The thing that bothers me the most,” he said, is that “as far as I understand there has been no change in procedures for officers discharging bears. If there hasn’t been, this incident could happen again.”
While Nelner said he grew up turkey hunting and using guns in the bush, he said “ENR officers don’t have enough training with firearms.”
“They go out to deal with a problem bear and haven’t had enough trigger time to deal with densely populated areas,” he said, referring to downtown Fort Simposon where the incident occurred. “Officers need to really practice a lot with firing range. There’s no other way of being safe with a gun.”
When asked if he had received an apology, Nelner said he had not but that it’s not for him to ask for one. “It just is what it is,” he said.