More than three years after they shot a man wielding a plastic BB gun, three Burnaby RCMP officers have been cleared of wrongdoing in the incident by B.C.’s police watchdog.
Police were called to the 9300 block of Salish Court at about 8 p.m. on March 20 after a witness reported encountering a man with a gun going into an apartment building, according to an Independent Investigations Office report published Tuesday.
The witness told police the gunman had at first threatened to shoot her but then told the witness she was “not in trouble,” states the report.
The witness said the man had then told her to call police, which raised police concerns the man was looking for a confrontation with the police, according to the IIO.
Officers found the man in a vehicle in a nearby parking area and told him to drop the weapon, which turned out to be a BB gun, and get out of the vehicle, but the man didn’t comply and pointed the gun at his own head.
He then pointed the gun towards one of the officers, according to police, at which point officers fired multiple shots, hitting the man in the neck, chest and right arm. He was treated in hospital.
The man later told the IIO he had been living in his vehicle and had had an upsetting cell phone conversation with someone living in the apartment building just before the incident began, according to the report.
He said he did show his gun to the witness but denied threatening her with it or asking the witness to call police.
He also said he didn’t point the gun at police and told them it was a toy.
After reviewing statements from 28 civilian witnesses, including the shot man and one of his relatives, statements from four witness officers, cell phone videos, CCTV camera footage, recordings of police radio transmissions, ballistic reports and other evidence, chief civilian director Ron MacDonald said the IIO would not be recommending charges against the officers involved because they had used “necessary, reasonable and proportionate force to defend themselves.”
He pointed to the fact attending officers had been told the man had a gun and that he had told the witness to call police.
Further, the man failed to drop the gun despite repeated warnings from police, and then – inadvertently or otherwise – pointed the gun in the direction of one of the officers when he stopped pointing it at his own head.
“The evidence collected does not provide grounds to consider any charges against any officer,” MacDonald said. “Indeed, the evidence shows that the officers acted as required by their duties and in accordance with the law.”
The March 2015 incident was one of three police shootings that month.
The IIO has yet to report on one of those cases, a shooting on March 1, 2015 after a robbery, now the oldest file on the police watchdog’s books.
The RCMP have complained, with Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr, the RCMP’s commanding officer in B.C., calling the delays “unacceptable.”