DPD officers “acted lawfully” in their efforts to arrest a man who allegedly stole a taxi on the B.C. Ferries terminal in Tsawwassen last spring, B.C.’s civilian watchdog has concluded.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) was called in to investigate after the man died during his interaction with Delta police on May 29, 2020. As the independent civilian oversight agency for police in British Columbia, the IIO investigates all officer-related incidents that result in serious harm or death, whether or not there is any allegation of wrongdoing.
In its report released Dec. 11, the IIO cleared police of any wrongdoing, concluding the man died of self-inflicted injuries despite all efforts to save his life. The IIO reached its conclusion based on evidence collected from 15 civilian witnesses, 12 witness police officers, eight first responders, video and audio recordings, autopsy reports and more.
According to the report, the man was dropped at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal at 11:06 p.m. on May 29, and 25 minutes later stole a taxi that was parked nearby. The man then drove the taxi at a high rate of speed up the causeway and into a parking area approximately four kilometres away.
Coincidentally, a Delta police officer was parked in the same parking area dealing with an unrelated matter. The taxi nearly hit the officer’s vehicle and then the officer himself, who was on foot had to jump out of the way. The “near miss” was verified independently by two civilian witnesses.
The officer ran after the man, who had exited the taxi, and radioed for back-up. Less than a minute later, the officer had the man at gunpoint and was ordering him to drop a knife he had in his hand. The officer deployed his conducted energy weapon three times, with only one successful electrical current connection prior to other police arriving on scene.
A second officer arrived about three minutes after the “near miss.” Over the next 15 minutes, a total of nine officers responded to the incident.
At one point during the incident, the man produced a pipe from his backpack and, with a weapon in each hand, goaded officers to shoot him.
The IIO determined that no shots were fired by any officers. Several officers unsuccessfully deployed their conducted energy weapons, and officers also used 40 mm launchers to shoot the man with “less lethal” projectiles, which the report says had “little to no effect.” The report indicates that “gunshots” heard by some witnesses that night were likely the 40 mm launchers.
De-escalation attempts continued throughout the encounter but were unsuccessful, and the man eventually turned the knife on himself.
The autopsy report states the man died of “sharp force self-inflicted injuries of the neck, damaging carotid arteries and jugular veins.” The toxicology report indicates the man had methamphetamine in his system. The autopsy noted no other significant conditions the contributed to the man’s death.
The IIO investigation determined “it was necessary and appropriate for officers to use force in an effort to get [the man] to drop the weapons and also to prevent him from inflicting further harm to himself.”
“It cannot be said that this use of force by any of the involved officers was unreasonable in the circumstances,” wrote IIO Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. MacDonald in the report. “Once officers could move in safely, they did so and administered first aid in an attempt to save [the man]. Tragically, despite all attempts to save his life, [the man] died of his own self-inflicted wounds.
“Accordingly, as the chief civilian director of the IIO, I do not consider that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges.”
In a press release, Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord thanked the IIO for their diligent and thorough work on this investigation, and the public for their patience in allowing this work to proceed.
“I also want to express condolences on behalf of the department to the family and loved ones of the man who died in this incident,” Dubord said.
“Even though our officer’s actions did not contribute to this man’s death, incidents such as this have a lasting impact on the officers who respond. People get involved in this line of work to help others, and it’s a tragedy when, despite all our best efforts, sometimes we’re not able to get some people the help they need.”