Ian Bush was targeted by RCMP: family lawyer
HOUSTON, B.C. - The lawyer for the family of a man fatally shot by police said Thursday it appears RCMP were targeting Ian Bush when he was arrested with an open beer.
Howard Rubin said Bush was among a crowd of people outside the hockey arena in this northwestern B.C. community yet he was the only one to get a ticket.
"There's no other tickets,'' Rubin said outside a coroner's inquest into Bush's death.
"There's beer that's seized. They just go for Ian. He's a person that's at the back of the crowd when that happens. They acknowledge that he was just holding someone's beer at one point.''
Const. Paul Koester said he was fighting for his life when he shot Bush, 22, in a struggle at the RCMP detachment Oct. 29, 2005.
The New Westminster, B.C., police investigated the shooting and concluded Koester shouldn't be charged.
The public outcry that followed prompted B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal to make some details of the shooting public.
Oppal said Koester was acting in self-defence.
The inquest heard Wednesday that Koester asked his safety officer whether he should go ahead with a charge of obstruction against Bush for twice giving him a false name.
The officer said Bush had previous encounters with police, including an incident where he fled police and dumped his vehicle and was believed to have been intoxicated.
"That's not the way you do things,'' Rubin said. "You don't take a person to the detachment and teach him a lesson just because he may have been a person in a previous investigation. I mean they didn't charge him.
"But I think that was part of the reason that they were targeting him.''
Rubin said Koester had given Bush a ticket before "so where he said he didn't know him, it might not be true that he doesn't know him.''
Bush did not have a criminal record.
Pathologist Dr. John Stefanelli told the inquest Bush probably died instantly when he was shot.
Stefanelli said the post mortem showed a gun had been partially pressed to Bush's head.
The bullet tumbled through his brain, lodging inside above Bush's eyebrows.
He said he couldn't determine whether bruising around Bush's eyes was as a result of the bullet wound or of the fracturing of his skull by the bullet or whether he had been struck in the face.
There were also three circular lacerations near the entrance wound, consistent with evidence from Koester that he struck Bush, 22, with the pistol before pulling the trigger.
Stefanelli said Bush's body was never refrigerated before he did the autopsy and had started to decompose, which he called "problematic.''
He said the decomposition did not affect his determination of the cause of death but "it could have masked some bruising'' that he said may be clouded by decomposition.
Rubin, under cross-examination, pointed to Stefanelli's failure to completely examine a bruise found on Bush's left inner thigh.
Koester testified Wednesday that putting a knee in a suspect's groin was a submission technique that RCMP officers are trained to use.
Koester said he did not remember using such a technique or kneeing Bush in the groin.
Later the coroner's jury heard from RCMP Cpl. Derek Donovan, a traffic division specialist from Burns Lake, B.C., in Houston to help with policing on the evening of Bush's arrest.
Because it was the night of the first home game of the Houston Luckies senior men's hockey team, Donovan said they made it a practice to set up road checks and make patrols because "there was a lot of drinking'' associated with the event.
Donovan said he was partnered with Koester that evening and they both had been conducting liquor seizures at the west end of the arena.
He said he issued no tickets, just got rid of the alcohol, gave the offenders a warning and told them to warn their friends inside the arena that police were on watch.
He told the jury he saw Koester involved in a liquor seizure but that no ticket was issued.
Rubin said that was significant.
"I think that's important evidence because it goes to the question of why everybody else simply has their liquor poured out,'' the lawyer said.
"Ian Bush has his liquor poured out, but he's going to get a ticket for a liquor offence. But how in the hell do you prove a liquor offence once you've poured the liquor out?
"I don't understand that. I think what's happened (is) they wanted to take him back to the detachment.''