IIO exonerates B.C. officer who killed man wielding a pellet pistol

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A Campbell River RCMP officer who shot and killed a man who was pointing a pellet gun at him last year was justified in his actions, “and in fact, he exercised considerable restraint,” the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has concluded.

The shooting happened April 2, 2022, after police responded to a 911 call from a sporting-goods store where a man was reported to have stolen knives and a realistic-looking pellet pistol, a decision from the IIO said.

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The IIO is a civilian-led oversight agency that investigates police-related incidents involving death or serious harm.

Its investigation into the Campbell River death included input from nine civilian witnesses, four first responders and two police officers, along with audio recordings of the 911 call, dashcam video from police vehicles and a firearms report.

In the 911 call, which came in at 11:33 a.m., the caller tells police there is a robbery in progress where the store manager was told: “You are going to die.”

One of the items taken was a pellet pistol that store staff said was still in its packaging.

A suspect matching the description provided to police was found in a motel parking lot, and what followed was captured by the motel’s security cameras and police dashcams.

The decision said the suspect ran at an officer while pointing the pellet pistol directly at him, and the officer fired his gun — with the bullet lodging in the suspect’s backpack as he passed by.

The suspect pointed the pellet pistol again and the officer fired a second shot, the decision said.

Another officer then drove her police vehicle at the suspect as he ran along the border of the motel property but did not make contact, then a third officer, also in a police vehicle, made glancing contact with the suspect.

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The first officer who drove at the suspect then saw the suspect on the ground with what looked to be a semi-automatic pistol in his hand and he pointed it at officers as they approached.

She said she heard a shot after the officer who had previously fired at the suspect yelled at him to drop the gun.

Officers then moved in and checked for bullet wounds or blood, but found neither. Paramedics also checked for bullet wounds but did not see any, so the suspect was placed in a police vehicle.

When an officer went to formally arrest the man, however, he was found to be unresponsive. CPR was started and the man was transferred to an ambulance to be taken to hospital, where he was declared dead, the decision said.

It was then determined the man had been hit by a bullet that passed through his belt and the waistband of his pants, and the wound had closed and yielded limited blood.

The decision said the officer who shot at the man when the pistol was pointed at him “was entitled to respond as if it was a lethal threat.”

Since the 911 caller had said the pellet pistol was still in its packaging, the weapon being pointed “would have appeared exactly like a full-power firearm,” the decision said.

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“It should be noted that a pellet gun of the sort in (the suspect’s) possession is quite capable of causing very serious bodily harm if fired the way (the suspect) was pointing it — at close range and more less directly at (the officer’s) face.”

The decision said “all reasonable efforts” were made to find bullet wounds on the suspect, who did not complain about pain in his abdomen.

“Officers cannot be faulted for not locating that wound, given that responding paramedics also failed to find it,” the decision said.

It said that there were no reasonable grounds to believe that an officer had committed an offence.

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