Police officers in Saanich and Greater Victoria have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC.
In late February, the IIO opened an investigation into the death of a man who was armed and claimed he had a hostage.
He died of self-inflicted wounds after police attempted to resolve a stand-off situation peacefully.
Following the incident, the IIO opened an investigation into the Saanich Police and the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT).
What happened in February
At around 5 p.m. on February 21st, Saanich Police were called to a residence to “keep the peace” and stand by for an eviction notice that was to be served to a tenant by his landlord.
Two police officers and the landlord were present when the man was served his eviction notice. Upon receiving his eviction he went back inside his residence and came back out with an air rifle that appeared to be an assault rifle.
According to police, the resident being evicted then said to the officers, “How about we trespass with this?”
Police say they believed the weapon to be a real firearm. One officer found cover behind a tree and threw their weapon, saying they were fearing for their life.
The second officer said they shouted commands at the man to drop the weapon. The resident did not drop the weapon and returned inside the residence.
The two officers contained the scene and called the GVERT and Saanich Police’s crisis team to assist them.
At around 5:55 p.m. the resident being evicted emerged from the residence and shot the air gun at a police car that was outside his residence. He then barricaded himself inside the residence once again, leaving a widow open so he could continue to fire the weapon at the officers’ vehicle.
Around 6:11 p.m. he fired the air rifle for a third time. A neighbour captured these shots fired on a video that was later used as evidence for the IIO’s investigation.
Police officers present believed that he was firing a different weapon on each occasion.
Police say there were 30-40 pellet holes from the air rifle that broke the police criuser’s window and left the siding of the vehicle damaged.
At 6:40 p.m., GVERT arrived at the scene and took control of the situation from Saanich Police.
The IIO reported that hours passed after GVERT arrived; during that time police tried to convince the resident to leave his house with his hands up. Officers used several tactics to try and achieve a peaceful outcome without injury.
Police say while negotiations were being attempted, the resident would come to the window and shout about conspiracies, ask the police to leave and exclaim that, “police are not brave enough to come inside.”
At one point during this time, the resident reportedly told police that he had a hostage inside the residence.
Police say they discovered through background checks that they had dealings with this man previously due to his ongoing mental health struggles. They had seized weapons from him on previous occasions and returned them to him afterward.
Police determined the resident was in possession of five rifles, a shotgun, a crossbow and the air rifle he was firing at them.
According to police the resident came outside at 8:41 p.m. to get a phone that police tried to give him for negotiations. Upon coming out, he picked up the phone, threw it back at officers and returned inside.
While outside though, police say they fired a series of ‘less lethal’ anti riot weapon enfield rounds (ARWEN).
The resident was unaffected by the rounds and police worked on a new plan to resolve the incident.
Police say they decided to use chlorobenzylidene malononitrile gas (sometimes referred to as tear gas) to make the man leave his residence.
Around 11:20 p.m. the gas was deployed into the residence. The resident remained inside.
According to police, about ten minutes later, the resident dialled 911 and reported to police he had shot himself with a crossbow, “because police had pepper sprayed him.”
At 11:39 p.m. he was transferred to a police negotiations officer who instructed him on how to leave the residence peacefully.
Police say they were skeptical whether he was actually injured. They believed he might be lying to them.
The resident came to the front door, as instructed, where he collapsed.
Police say they then took some steps to ensure that the resident was actually suffering from a medical emergency. Police then entered the residence where the resident was found to be non-responsive.
Once the scene was deemed safe, paramedics moved in to provide him with emergency medical care, but he was pronounced dead on the front lawn.
According to police, a security check was conducted and they found a rifle near the window the resident had been firing rounds from.
According to the BC Coroner’s Office, an autopsy was performed and the cause of death was determined to be a crossbow bolt to the chest.
The IIO’s decision
The IIO’s investigation was meant to determine whether the officers involved may have committed an offence that caused the resident’s death through action or inaction.
According to the IIO in a report published on November 24th, the officers involved performed their duties lawfully and strategically in order to find a peaceful resolution, while they were met with only violence and resistance from the resident.
Their investigation found that the tear gas was used as a last resort to achieve a peaceful ending to the incident and that the resident had “accidentally” shot himself with the crossbow.
“It cannot be said that the decision to deploy gas into the residence by the officers was unreasonable in the circumstances,” said Ronald J. MacDonald, Chief Civilian Director of the IIO in his decision report.
“The officers had tried various tactics, all of which were unsuccessful to that point.”
“Unforeseen to the officers, AP shot himself with a crossbow by accident during this process.”
The IIO say that based on the man’s history with police, actions taken by officers during the incident were warranted.
“As the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, I do not consider that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges,” said MacDonald.