Friday, June 14, 2024

Police watchdog blames driver of stolen truck for flipping vehicle in Courtenay

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The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) launched an investigation into an incident that occurred last October in which a man stole a truck in Courtenay, rammed it into police vehicles and flipped the stolen truck while trying to escape. 

Because the man’s injuries were caused in connection to police action, an IIO investigation was automatically launched. 

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The IIO has since concluded that the man who stole the truck is solely responsible for his injuries and they’ve cleared police officers of any wrongdoing in the situation. 

What happened

Police say that at around 12:45 p.m. on October 5th, 2022, a Comox Valley RCMP officer located a truck that had been reported stolen earlier that day. The green Dodge pickup truck was parked in a Tim Hortons parking lot in the 700-block of Courtenay.

The man who had stolen the truck was found in the driver’s seat of the vehicle.

When the man noticed the police officer, he drove the stolen truck forward, ramming the police officer’s cruiser which rendered it disabled. After this, the driver reversed over a concrete road divider and fled the scene.

Following this incident escalation, RCMP deployed aerial surveillance, unmarked vehicles and additional officers to aid in apprehending the driver of the stolen truck. 

According to police, the driver was seen driving in the area at high speeds. At one point, police attempted to block his way and he rammed two police vehicles to get through. 

Comox Valley RCMP say they wanted to avoid a dangerous chase so they opted to focus on surveillance.

Eventually the dangerous driver found himself in a dead end cul-de-sac in a residential area. Evidence from the following events was gathered in the form of police cruiser dsh camera footage and witness statements.

On the cul-de-sac a garbage disposal truck was doing its duty at the road’s mouth when two police vehicles pulled up and effectively blocked the street. While they did this, additional police vehicles were nearby in case they were needed.

One officer exited her vehicle and attempted to lay a spike strip but once outside her vehicle she noticed the stolen truck speeding toward her so she got back in the police cruiser and fastened her seatbelt.

“I thought he was going to drive into us,” the officer told IIO investigators. 

The man did not ram the police vehicles this time, instead he swerve and mounted the sidewalk and tried to make it through the gap between a fence and the garbage disposal truck at the mouth of the cul-de-sac. 

According to investigators, the truck’s tire hit a large rock while the man attempted the maneuver which resulted in the truck flipping over onto the driver’s side.

The stolen truck slid across the intersection on its side before hitting the curb and flipping back upright on the front lawn of someone’s home with one wheel completely ripped off the vehicle’s axis. 

The man was then removed from his vehicle and arrested. Upon his arrest officers discovered he had suffered serious internal injuries so he was rushed to hospital. 

IIO BC’s conclusion

Because this man suffered serious injuries in a police-related incident, the IIO is obligated to open an independent investigation into police actions.

For this incident the IIO admitted that the man would not have suffered injury had police not blocked the mouth of the cul-de-sac; however, the direct cause of the man’s significant injuries has been determined to be his own reckless driving and erratic action. 

With hindsight, the IIO believes that the choice to block his path using their own police cruisers in which the officers sat could have resulted in bodily harm or death to any number of those involved, but in the moment the police officers acted in a way in which they thought appropriate. 

The officers involved were attempting to minimize the man’s threat to the public by cornering him in a residential area with only one entrance/exit, according to the IIO.

Ronald MacDonald, Chief Civilian Officer of the IIO has cleared all officers involved of any wrongdoing in the incident.

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Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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