B.C.’s police watchdog has concluded there are no grounds to believe any officers committed an offence when a Saanich man died from a self-inflicted crossbow wound in his home in February.
Ronald J. MacDonald, chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office, reviewed statements from civilian and police witnesses, audio from 911 and police radio calls, video recorded by civilian witnesses and evidence from the scene in reaching his decision, which was posted online Thursday.
According to MacDonald, officers from the Saanich Police Department were called to attend the man’s residence “to keep the peace and stand by during the serving of an eviction notice.” They arrived with the landlord around 5 p.m.
“Once served, (the affected person) went back into the residence and came out with what appeared to be an assault style rifle (later discovered to be an air gun),” MacDonald wrote.
One of the witness officers told MacDonald the man then said: “How about we trespass with this?”
The confrontation kicked off a lengthy standoff, which involved the man retreating into the home and periodically firing various weapons out of his window at police.
“The police car windows were broken and there were 30-40 pellet holes in each of the two police vehicles that were hit,” MacDonald’s decision reads.
The Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team was called in and attempted to negotiate with the man by providing him a phone, according to the decision. They also did a background check and discovered that police had previously seized weapons from the man on two occasions, but that he had had those weapons returned to him.
“(The affected person) had a series of previous encounters with police due to his mental health,” MacDonald wrote.
The man initially took the phone, but soon opened the door and threw it back out, according to the decision.
At one point, an officer fired five “less lethal” rounds at the man, who seemed unaffected, prompting the GVERT to adopt a new plan to get the man to leave the residence by deploying chlorobenzalmalononitrile gas, better known as tear gas.
Officers deployed the gas at 11:20 p.m., according to MacDonald’s decision.
“Approximately 10 minutes later, (the affected person) called 911 and reported that he had accidentally shot himself with a crossbow because officers had ‘pepper sprayed’ him,” MacDonald wrote.
The man’s call was transferred to an officer at the scene at 11:39 p.m. That officer encouraged the man to come to the front door with nothing in his hands.
The man attempted to do so, but collapsed near the front door, at which point, “after taking some steps to ensure that AP was actually suffering from a medical emergency,” officers entered the home and found the man unresponsive on the floor.
After describing all of this, MacDonald’s decision concludes that “it cannot be said that the decision to deploy gas into the residence by the officers was unreasonable in the circumstances.”
“The officers had tried various tactics, all of which were unsuccessful to that point,” MacDonald continued. “The use of gas was a non-violent tactic to get (the affected person) to leave the residence, and was reasonable in the circumstances. The tactic sits on the lower end of the use of force spectrum, and well within the range of options that were available to the officers at that point. Unforeseen to the officers, (the affected person) shot himself with a crossbow by accident during this process.”