The Independent Investigation Office of BC (IIO) has concluded their investigation into the events that transpired between Saanich Police officers and a man diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome who was shot with non-lethal rounds and attacked by a police dog.

On May 31st, 2022, a man tried to assist his mother in serving a tenant with eviction papers at a Saanich residence, but things did not go as planned.

The man’s mother was the homeowner and he had been living on the lower floor while the main floor was occupied by another tenant and her child. 

Following an unsuccessful attempt at serving the tenant an eviction notice, the landlord’s son became angry, uncooperative and persistent in trying to make the tenant take the papers.

As a result, five police officers attended after the tenant reported that the man had been hitting her door with a hammer and constantly ringing her doorbell. 

Things escalated unnecessarily, according to the police watchdog. Police officers’ judgment of the situation led to corners being cut and the man being seriously hurt by an attack from a police dog.

Here’s how events unfolded on May 31st of last year that prompted an investigation by the IIO:

What happened

The man who had been assisting in the eviction had been previously diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome which in many cases can cause difficulty in relating to others socially as well as often showing rigid and repetitive behaviour and thinking patterns.

Police knew that he had this diagnosis.

Once officers were on the scene, they tried to negotiate with the man who had been reportedly hitting his mother’s tenant’s door with a hammer trying to get her to take the papers.

By all five officer’s accounts, the man’s behaviour was resistant in a way that is categorized as ‘passively resistant,’ meaning he was being argumentative and questioning why they were trying to arrest him. 

The first officer on the scene who was referred to in the IIO’s report as the “subject officer” was also in charge of the police dog who eventually was made to attack the man. 

The man was standing on the stoop of the house and was meant to stay there per police instructions while they tried to make him calm and negotiate a resolution. 

He no longer had the hammer that he was reported to have had before police arrived and when he was asked where it was, he replied that he didn’t know.

Police officers thought he may have stashed it in the mailbox at the top of the steps near where he was standing but he was otherwise unarmed.

Furthermore, he was shirtless at the time and in being shirtless, officers could see that he had no weapons on his immediate possession.  

The subject officer had reportedly established what police call an ‘action line’ which is a metaphorical line that is to be communicated with individuals police deal with as a boundary they should not cross or swift, forceful action will be taken.

According to the IIO report, this ‘action line’ was never communicated to the man on the stoop. 

After two hours of negotiating, one of the five officers at the scene convinced the man to come down off the steps. Once he crossed the action line he was to get down on the ground and put his hands behind his head, but he did not comply with that part of the order immediately.

Because of this he was shot twice with non-lethal plastic rounds in the thigh and buttock which did not bring him to the ground.

The subject officer released the police dog within five to ten seconds of the second non-lethal round striking the man and he did so without clear warning. 

According to Saanich Police training and BC Police Standards, a “loud and verbal warning” is to be given before a police dog is released with the intention of biting an individual.

A loud and verbal warning was not given in this case. The only thing resembling a verbal warning is that the man was made aware of the dog’s presence earlier in the interaction.

The police dog attacked the man by biting his forearm and bringing him to the ground where it continued to “gnaw” on his arm as police officers dogpiled the man, got the dog off him and cuffed him.

He was unarmed at the time of the attack and showed no indication of being a threat toward officers. 

In an interview with investigators into this IIO case, the man who was bitten by the police dog said he had a difficult time processing the commands of the police officers while they initiated forceful action in rapid succession. 

Due to his condition which officers were aware of, this should not have come as a surprise to them. 

The IIO’s findings

The IIO investigates any situation in BC in which someone suffers serious bodily harm or death due to police action or inaction which is why this case was put under a magnifying glass. 

The man involved was being difficult for Saanich Police officers who were attempting a negotiation and peaceful outcome and things escalated quickly to a point where a police dog caused him serious harm. 

“The fear that he might be able to produce the hammer and use it as a weapon against them was somewhat fanciful,” wrote Ronald MacDonald, Chief Civilian Officer of the IIO.

“Once he came down the steps he was no longer within reach of its suspected hiding place in the mailbox; and if the hammer were tucked down the back of his pants it would not have been easy for him to reach for it and wield it against officers, who might have simply stepped forward and taken him by the arms.”

The IIO conclusion was that even though he had not shown any sort of aggressive behaviour toward police, his refusal to comply was grounds for action by the police officers present. 

“The haste with which the [non-lethal rounds] and, particularly, the [police dog] were deployed against [the man] was unfortunate and ‘close to the line’ in terms of justification,” wrote MacDonald. 

“Police officers are permitted a significant degree of latitude in their judgements about the need to use force, but this case represents the very upper limit of that license.”

“While I would not call that use of force commendable, neither can I call it criminal.”

Therefore, the officers involved will not face charges for their actions and have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the events that transpired on May 31st, 2022.