The province’s police watchdog has cleared Nanaimo RCMP of any wrongdoing in an incident in which an officer shot and killed a man last summer.
Police responded to Haliburton Street in Nanaimo the afternoon of Saturday, July 23, after reports of an altercation between a man and a woman. The man was shot and killed by police. In an Independent Investigations Office of B.C. report released Wednesday, Feb. 8, Ron MacDonald, IIOBC chief civilian director, said there weren’t any reasonable grounds to believe police committed an offence and he is not recommending charges to Crown counsel.
According to the report, a woman went to pick up the man, who had been suffering from depression and mental health issues and had been consuming substantial amounts of alcohol. While she was driving, a verbal argument began, at which time the woman asked the man to leave the car. After he refused, she attempted to call 911, at which time the man “grabbed her hand and punched her in the arm,” stated the report.
“As he took hold of the steering wheel and put his foot on the gas pedal, she was able to call 911, and reported that [the man] had assaulted her. She told the call taker that [he] was mentally unwell and needed to be committed to hospital,” the report said.
A witness reported seeing the woman hanging out of the driver’s window, waving her arm and asking for help. A police officer arrived on scene and used his vehicle to block the other vehicle.
The woman told the IIO the man got out of the car and swung his backpack at the window of the police vehicle, at which time the officer put the vehicle in reverse, according to the report. The officer requested backup.
The woman said she saw the police officer roll his window down and grab the man’s arm. As the man pulled out a gun and aimed it at the police officer, the woman told the officer it was a pellet gun and went to offer assistance. She saw that the officer had the man in a headlock and the man was pointing the pellet gun at the officer.
“She was unable to pull [the man] away, and then saw that [the officer] had managed to draw his firearm and was aiming it at [the man] in the area of his neck. She said she heard gunshots and ran away to the back of the police vehicle,” the report noted.
According to audio recordings, the officer said shots had been fired and while he was OK, the man was dead and help was needed immediately.
A gun was recovered with six nine-millimetre cartridge casings matching the officer’s gun, as well as a silver replica Beretta 92FS semi-automatic pellet gun. According to an autopsy, the man suffered five gunshot wounds to his chest, with four deemed to be from close range. The man had consumed moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol, the autopsy found.
In his findings, MacDonald noted the incident is not complicated. The officer was well within the law, performing his duties in response to a 911 call about a woman being assaulted.
“As soon as [the officer] arrived, and before he had even exited his vehicle, [the man] came at him, swinging a backpack against the window of the police vehicle,” said MacDonald. “Then, when [the officer] attempted to respond, [the man] produced and pointed what had every appearance of being a deadly weapon. At that point, it was absolutely reasonable for [the officer] to believe that he was in imminent danger of grievous bodily harm or death, and was justified in using lethal force in self-defence. Nothing in the evidence points to any other conclusion.”