B.C. watchdog investigating two police killings in less than a week
A police watchdog is investigating after a man died after being shot by the RCMP during a confrontation with officers in Dawson Creek, B.C.
Laura Kane, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, July 17, 2015 5:25AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 18, 2015 8:43PM EDT
SURREY, B.C. -- British Columbia's police watchdog is investigating its second police shooting in three days after officers killed a distressed man in Surrey early Saturday, sparking alarm from civil liberties advocates.
The Independent Investigations Office said police responded to reports of a suicidal man outside Surrey RCMP headquarters before a struggle ensued and he was fatally shot.
A police officer suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and was taken to hospital, but was expected to be released later that afternoon.
The incident follows a fatal RCMP shooting in Dawson Creek on Thursday evening outside a BC Hydro public hearing on the contentious Site C dam project.
Officers responded to an unrelated complaint of a disturbance inside the event and encountered a masked man outside. Police have said he refused to comply with directions and was fatally shot.
B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director Josh Paterson said police in the province have received more mental health and de-escalation training in recent years -- yet shootings of people in apparent distress continue to happen.
"You can put in more training modules at police academies. How is that translating out into operations in the field?" he asked. "Police are entrusted with the ability to use force and to use lethal force. With that comes a really high standard of accountability."
The IIO has responded to six officer-involved shootings in B.C. since the beginning of April, including in Vancouver, Burnaby, Salmon Arm and Port Hardy.
Spokeswoman Kellie Kilpatrick said in the 2013-14 fiscal year there were five officer-involved shootings, while in 2014-15 there were 11.
Kilpatrick said the office was "very busy" but had the resources to deal with the spate of shootings.
The Vancouver Police Department issued a report to the police board this week that reviewed the recommendations of two Ontario-based studies that looked at use of force when dealing with people who have mental illness.
Among the VPD's recommendations were to buy 200 more Tasers and provide more mental health training to officers most likely to come into contact with people in crisis.
Pivot Legal Society lawyer Doug King said B.C.'s police community must undergo the same kind of self-reflection that Toronto experienced when 19-year-old Sammy Yatim was shot by officers while holding a knife. He said Tasers can be a more effective tool to disarm someone.
"It seems we almost have a gap in our use of force techniques where it escalates very quickly to the use of a firearm, and the use of a firearm is almost always deadly," said King.
Kilpatrick has said a knife was recovered at the scene in Dawson Creek.
The B.C. Coroners Service has not released the dead man's identity but social media posts claim he was affiliated with the loosely-connected online activist group Anonymous.
Anonymous has no identifiable leadership and its members are known for wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Its members have claimed responsibility in the past for hacking incidents including the shutdown of the Cleveland city website last fall after the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
User Γåòjaymack9 tweeted on Thursday afternoon that an Anonymous "splinter group" was to attend the Site C meeting in Dawson Creek that night.
ΓåòYourAnonNews tweeted to its 1.46 million followers Friday: "Ohai Γåòrcmpgrcpolice we would like to report a murder of one of our comrades by some of your officers. Shall we expect justice or cover up?"
The account retweeted a post by another user ΓåòOpAnonDown on Saturday that vowed to identify the officer and to post his personal information online. It called for protests outside RCMP stations across Canada and said it would raise funds for the man's burial.
"We are all aware of this and we take all precautions," said Kilpatrick of the post.
She has not confirmed witness reports that the man killed was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
A cell phone video that appeared to show the aftermath of the shooting emerged on social media on Friday. It shows two officers standing over a man who was slumped on the ground in a pool of blood.
An officer appears to kick away an object from the man's hand before he is handcuffed and first aid is administered.
The IIO has not commented on the authenticity of the Facebook video.