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Watchdog absolves officers after Saanich man dies during police encounter

IIO finds no wrongdoing after investigation into man who fatally shot himself with crossbow
The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared law enforcement officers of any wrongdoing after a Feb. 21 incident that left a Saanich man dead. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) has cleared Saanich police officers of any wrongdoing after a man fatally shot himself with a crossbow during a February incident.

In a report released Thursday (Nov. 24), Ronald MacDonald, IIO chief civilian director, concluded that actions taken by police were not “unreasonable in the circumstances,” and that what ultimately unfolded was “unforeseen to the officers.”

The man, identified as AP, accidentally shot himself in the chest with a crossbow after officers discharged tear gas in an attempt to get AP to peacefully exit the residence where he had barricaded himself inside.

At 5 p.m. on Feb. 21, police were called to attend a Saanich residence to keep the peace and stand by during the serving of an eviction notice to a tenant by the landlord. Two members of the Saanich Police Department attended, along with the landlord who served AP with the notice.

Upon receiving the notice, AP went back into the residence before coming out again with what appeared to be an assault-style rifle. While it was later found to be an air gun, officers drew their firearms and shouted commands for AP to “drop the weapon.” Instead of dropping the weapon, AP returned inside the residence.

According to the report, the officers contained the scene and called the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) and Crisis Team to assist. At 5:55 p.m., AP re-emerged from the residence and shot his air gun at a police car parked just outside the residence before barricading himself inside the residence once again. Several minutes later, AP opened a window and fired his weapon towards two police cars, breaking their windows and leaving 30 to 40 pellets in each.

At 6:40 p.m., GVERT arrived and attempted to negotiate with AP to leave the premises with his hands up. Various tactics were used over the course of hours with little to no avail. One officer on scene described AP as yelling “nonsensical statements” through the window. At one point, AP even told officers that he had a hostage inside.

After background checks were conducted by an officer on scene, police discovered that AP had five rifles, a shotgun, crossbow, pellet gun and various ammunition. Officers also learned that AP had a series of previous encounters with police due to his mental health.

Attempts were made by officers by officers to speak to AP at 8:41 p.m. by providing him with a phone. AP came out to pick up the phone, but then threw it back to officers. Five ARWEN (anti-riot weapon Enfield) rounds were fired at AP before he returned to the residence.

Officers made a new plan to get AP to exit peacefully and discharged tear gas into the residence at 11:20 p.m. Approximately 10 minutes later, AP called 911 and reported that he had accidentally shot himself with a crossbow because police had “pepper sprayed” him.

Unsure of whether or not AP was being truthful, officers transferred the call to a police negotiator who provided AP with instructions for AP to exit the residence with nothing in his hands. AP then came near the front door where he could be seen by officers and collapsed on the floor. Upon entry to the residence, police officers found AP unresponsive.

Paramedics attended to AP and pronounced him dead on the front lawn of the residence. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be a crossbow bolt to AP’s chest.

“The use of gas was a non-violent tactic to get AP to leave the residence, and was reasonable in the circumstances,” wrote MacDonald. “Based on his previous behaviour, and the presence of weapons, it was reasonable for police to be concerned that AP may have still been a threat to officers even after his 911 call that he shot himself.”

No charges will be recommended to Crown for consideration.

ALSO READ: Police misconduct complaints up 26% in B.C.’s municipal forces: report

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Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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