Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

More mystery in another IIO cop prosecution

with 41 comments

After the first week of testimony in the charge of careless use of a firearm against Cranbrook Cst. Rick Drought, a 15 year veteran of the RCMP at the time, I am still left wondering why this charge has been laid in the first place. A week into it and I have no inkling what it is the Crown thinks it can prove that adds up to criminal behaviour.

What’s even more puzzling is that when the charge against Drought was first announced on August 8, 2013, the charge was ‘intentionally discharging a firearm into a motor vehicle knowing a person was in the vehicle and intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the life and safety of another person.’

Those charges were new to the Criminal Code in 2009 and were designed to prosecute gang shootings not police officers in the execution of their duty. It carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for each count. In the government background announcing the amendments it specifically said, “One of the main purposes of the bill is to facilitate the battle against organized crime, and to that end, it amends the Criminal Code.”

So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at the facts in the case.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 2nd, 2012, 25-yr-old career criminal Nicholas John Bullock, accompanied by his 17-yr-old girlfriend, violently carjacked two folks driving a white Chevy Malibu in the parking lot of the Coquitlam Superstore.

They drove the car until they ran out of gas outside of Yahk, BC. They flagged down a passing motorist and promptly violently carjacked the hapless good Samaritan. They then drove towards Cranbrook, BC where Mounties were responding to the reported carjacking. It should be noted they believed the suspect was armed. Cst. Drought took up the pursuit in the area of Elizabeth Lake.

The suspect drove the hijacked Toyota 4 Runner into the woods on a rural acreage at the top of Victoria Avenue. Drought got out of his police car likely believing the suspects would abandon the vehicle and try to lose their pursuer in the woods.

He had only moved a short distance in front of his cruiser when the SUV came out of the woods lit up and accelerating right at the police officer. He reacted in the blink of an eye. In the space of 2.5 seconds Drought fired nine shots into the vehicle, seven through the windscreen and two through the passenger side window as he sidestepped the vehicle according to the firearms investigator who testified.

Clearly, Drought feared for his life.

Three of his shots hit the suspect, one in the upper body and two in the left wrist and he was taken into custody.  Bullock would later plead guilty to a number of charges and was essentially sentenced to two years less a day after time served was taken into consideration. He has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2005 for a host of offences including robbery.

One would think that would be the end of things. But not so for police officers in British Columbia since the inception of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).

Sherman Mah from the IIO testified on Thursday that he estimated the distance between Drought and the SUV when he began shooting was approximately 14 metres or about 45 feet. He didn’t actually take any measurements because he said this was only their second case and they didn’t have the ability to transport any equipment from Vancouver or frankly, any equipment to transport. No, really, he actually said that.

So what did he do? Well, he used a diagram provided by the RCMP and super-imposed that over a printout from Google Earth. You can’t make this stuff up.

The next day, the scene was reconstructed for the jury – yes, this is a jury trial – and the distance appeared to be much less. Much, much less, apparently, somewhere between five and six metres or about 20 feet.We won’t know the specific distance until the RCMP crime scene folks testify, but let’s call it 20 feet, give or take. So, the car was travelling at about 30 KPH and accelerating towards the officer. How much time would you think it would take to cover that 20 feet?

Exactly.

Drought reacted as anyone would facing that threat would and fired his weapon, all shots hitting in the driver’s compartment as intended. Bullock told the IIO investigators that he wasn’t really going to run over the officer, but he understood why the officer fired.

The IIO investigators who conducted the investigation were surprised that the Chief Civilian Director, Richard Rosenthal, forwarded the case to Crown. The CCD does this whenever he feels a crime MAY have been committed. This is a dangerously low threshold to meet and normally common sense takes hold and no charges are laid. In this case common sense left the room and a Senior Crown Counsel in Victoria overrode local Crown Counsel and laid the ridiculous charge against a police officer in the execution of his duty that was intended by Parliament for use against gang bangers doing drive-bys.

This is a war on police not civilian oversight as envisioned by the government resulting from the flawed Braidwood Inquiry.

At some point the ridiculousness of this charge must have dawned on someone at Criminal Justice Branch and the charge was amended to “Careless use or storage of a weapon,” under section 86 of the Criminal Code.

To prove this charge the Crown must establish that the accused’s conduct “constitutes a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonably prudent person.” Wait, what?

Yup, this charge is aimed at the average owner of a firearm who contravenes a regulation under paragraph 117 (h) of the Firearms Act.

This is nuts. Drought has been off duty on administrative leave for three years, still earning his salary but providing no benefit to the citizens of Cranbrook who pay that salary. For what? To try and prove some nebulous, chicken-shit charge that relates to bureaucratic regulations?

Police officers are authorized to use force, including lethal force, to do their duty. They may use lethal force if they feel their life or that of another is in danger. But, the same criminal code that gives a police officer this power also holds them accountable in Section 26 which states: “Every one who is authorized by law to use force is criminally responsible for any excess thereof according to the nature and quality of the act that constitutes the excess.”

The test in this or any other case facing IIO investigators should simply be this: Did the officer perceive he or she was in danger? Was he or she entitled to use lethal force? Was the force used excessive in the circumstances?

That’s it. That is the role envisioned for the IIO. Rosenthal has seemingly made it his role to use whatever tools at his disposal to go after scalps of cops.

The trial in Cranbrook against Drought is scheduled to run another week and a half before it goes to the jury. What an absolute waste of time and money. Not to mention the toll it has taken on yet another cop in BC just trying to do his job.

One can almost hear the strains of Judy Collins singing, “Send in the clowns.”

-30-

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

October 12, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

41 Responses

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  1. I agree with Leo Knight that no charges should have been laid against Constable Drought. It seems to me
    if a Constable uses his firearm at any time the Independent Investigation Office lays charges against the Officer with little or no evidence.

    • Just to clarify the Director of the IIO will make a report to Crown Counsel if he feels evidence supports a an offence, Crown Counsel will decide if evidence supports a charge and based upon a likelihood of conviction.

      Adam Carson

      October 23, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      • Isn’t it interesting that when VPD Professional Standards Section were investigating incidents involving their members, they used to forward all files to Crown so they couldn’t be accused of protecting they own or other nonsensical aspects of the ‘police shouldn’t investigate their own’ crowd. Crown got fed up with all the extra work to review every file they protested and said to only forward files where you think there’s evidence of wrongdoing.

        Under this system where the CCD of the IIO, who thinks his job is to prosecute police, forwards all manner of nonsensical files to Crown, – and based upon flawed investigations – the pendulum seems to have swung back. I should also add, that while you are technically correct in the first part, there is nothing in the legislation that says anything about a likelihood of conviction.

        Leo Knight

        October 23, 2015 at 5:33 pm

  2. To be honest Leo it sounds like Crown needs to set the bar. It’s like watching the IIO High School team from the Duchy of Fenwick competing at the Olympics except Peter Sellers was funny.

    Rich

    October 13, 2015 at 1:15 am

  3. Absolutely fantastic article. I couldn’t have put my own thoughts on paper better. You are 100% correct that this entire thing is a complete joke. Cst. Drought should be compensated heavily for everything he has had to endure since the very beginning. Our system is an embarrassment if this is how cases like this are handled.

    croaton67

    October 13, 2015 at 1:18 am

  4. If a vehicle was accelerating at me from a supposed 20 feet away I’d be fast footing it out of there…… Not pulling a gun and trying to get it usefully into play.

    Isn’t there a 21 foot rule for a suspect with a knife on foot accelerating at a cop too, as in be prepared to fight and get stabbed because going for your gun isn’t a tactically valid response? This sounds like similar logic could apply.

    The Mountie had a safe alternative, sidestep without shooting and then use his police vehicle in a tactical manner…..

    I don’t know if I support the charge until I hear all the details….. But I see where the IIO and crown were coming from.

    Ken

    October 13, 2015 at 2:17 am

    • Yup. There’s a security job waiting for you at Canadian Tire and if that doesn’t work out I hear the IIO needs ‘hindsight’ investigators just like you.

      Rich

      October 13, 2015 at 5:27 am

    • Why would you write this without even looking at what the 21 foot principle even is? Your opinion is based on something you just totally made up out of thin air.

      Aaron

      October 13, 2015 at 11:57 am

      • Please…. Explain it to me! Not all of us have the advanced police training you appear to.

        I tried to make my statement like a question….. I would like to learn if this was his only option to fire at the car.

        Ken

        October 14, 2015 at 9:18 am

    • Why would you write this without even looking at what the 21 foot principle even is? Your opinion is based on something you just totally made up out of thin air.

      That is why you see where they are coming from. Because you, and they, have ignored reason.

      Aaron

      October 13, 2015 at 11:58 am

    • Outrun a car, sidestep a car 21 feet away from you and advancing rapidly, Safe alternative? Somewhere there is a village in search of an idiot. You.

      diggy

      October 14, 2015 at 5:11 am

    • Ken, I was a cop on Toronto for 27 years. I can state without hesitation, if you are a cop as well you would NEVER sit in the same car as me. I want to feel safe with my partners.

      Gordon Allen

      October 17, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    • I was a police officer for 30 years and had the occasion to shoot and flatten the right tire of my stolen police car. I was making another arrest at the time. I was lucky that I was not in the path of the vehicle , if I had been and only 20 ft. away I would have reacted the same way as officer Drought. It is very easy to criticize after the fact. Instead of being charged I received a well done for possibly saving injuries or lives as the thief had a lengthy CriminalRecord at the time of his detainment. It is instinct, save your life and the lives of others.

      Leon

      October 17, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    • I wouldn’t want you to be my partner! when you are that C…S…. you are a danger not only to yourself,
      but to those working with you. Grow up!

      John R Kerster ex/member 15481

      October 19, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    • same goes for you as other C…S… how longer will the perk be on the streets doing people? maybe he should try your car when a loved one is driving, and see how loud you’ll squeel for police to act hard and fast.

      John R Kerster ex/member 15481

      October 20, 2015 at 6:02 am

    • So you would prefer to step aside and let the culprit escape to prey on other innocent victims. You suggest the officer should have pursued him in the police vehicle (no doubt a high speed pursuit) which you well know could endanger the lives of others. You should not comment on what police should or not do, until you have walked in their shoes

      Del

      October 21, 2015 at 5:36 pm

  5. These IIO “investigators” must have been recruited straight out of middle school. Having an independent oversight committee isn’t a bad thing as long as these people; 1. Know their role and don’t over step their authority or scope. 2. That the people that comprise this committee have the requisite background and training and that the training is current, relevant and ongoing. 3. That there is a form of redress and appeal or review, if you prefer, to ensure due process and proper methods of investigation have been employed in arriving at initial findings.
    As it stands now it’s a joke. A dangerous joke, but a joke none the less.

    Don Reimer

    October 13, 2015 at 2:57 am

  6. Have the crown prosecutor and the judge stand in a rural area and send a known criminal that could be packing a gun speed toward them and see if they can jump out of the way in time!! And if they can but this homicidal maniac then goes and shoots some innocent bystander everybody throw your arms up and let’s have an inquiry into why the police didn’t stop this career criminal. Seriously this is what is wrong with our society

    Shari

    October 13, 2015 at 3:27 am

  7. Brilliant article sir. The 21 foot rule applies to a knife wielding assailant running directly at a officer with a weapon in the holster That is the MINIMUM distance a trained, practiced member is likely to successfully engage the subject. If the subject is on drugs he/she can still attack the officer after a killing shot. An offender accelerating toward an officer is equally unpredictable. This court case smells of furthering someone’s political agenda.

    Mike ter Kuile

    October 13, 2015 at 3:26 pm

  8. I was the person carjacked in Yahk. Over a month later the IIO called me looking for the vehicle…..yes, the one they gave over to the RCMP after their investigation was complete. They had no idea where it was in compound….where they tore it apart looking for slugs.

    alan armstrong

    October 13, 2015 at 7:38 pm

  9. I agree this is a waste of money and time let the cops do there job stupid idiots

    sharlynn

    October 13, 2015 at 11:48 pm

  10. What i found amazingly funny was Sherman Mah’s comments during his evidence regarding a) his available investigating equipment and transporting methods, and b) his evidence of the scene which he concluded from “estimates” from a diagram and google map!!! ( an impossible task of calculating distances from photos in my opinion and experience). That alone should give everyone a hint of just how qualified this IIO group are in investigational methods. And to have a senior Crown authorize these charges! – wow! Should make him pay the court costs for creating this waste of public funds in such a ridiculous case, and maybe at the same time proving what a pompous ass he or she just may be!
    Having said all of this, lets take a moment and think, what if the jury sitting on this trial positively for the Crown’s case, what the ripple effect this will have on our Canadian law enforcers in how they will perform during their duties, if at all. 🙂

    Brian

    October 14, 2015 at 4:07 am

    • Yeah, how hard is it to transport a tape measure?

      Amanda

      October 15, 2015 at 3:14 am

  11. I personally know this Constable and know him to be a smart individual that cares about the type of policing he does and who cares about people, I have been to the location and don’t feel I could have done anything different faced with the same situation, a call that came in as a armed car jacking is not someone you want on the street.

    I think of Rick and his family often and the unnecessary stress it has caused them

    bruce

    October 14, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    • Sounds to me like this one worked like it should. Coming from me a skeptic.I think this judge was right

      Mike

      October 15, 2015 at 12:40 am

      • I don’t understand what you meant “…I think the judge was right…” As I understand it the Crown entered a stay of proceedings. If I am correct the judge made no decision. I don’t think “this one worked like it should.”

        Glenn

        October 15, 2015 at 3:04 am

  12. This officer did what any normal person would do in the face of danger. Clearly the IIO.did a poor job of follow-up in this case. And the senior Crown looks like he is just trying to make a name for himself by prosecuting an officer. Hope he falls flat on his face. In my opinion the officer did what he had to do to protect his life and the citizens of Cranbrook. Who would have been the next victim had this not happened? Maybe the next one would have been killed and the perp would be happily on his way to safety before anyone knew what happened. I certainly hope the jury has enough smarts to clear this officer of any wrong doing.

    Sharon

    October 14, 2015 at 3:20 pm

  13. Well I just texted Cst Drought and he is relieved, he has many people to get back to for all the hundreds of well wishers who contacted him, now lets hope life can return to normal for this great stand up guy and his family

    bruce

    October 14, 2015 at 7:38 pm

  14. This isn’t the only time the IIO has forwarded an RCC after an either very biased investigation or an incompetent one. The two examples that come to mind immediately are the charges that were stayed in Delta and the acquittal in Salmon Arm. Who has oversight of the IIO? This has affected the way many police officers do their job now. As we have seen in Baltimore, (to a much smaller degree) police are more concerned with CYA than catching bad guys or keeping the public safe. What is the motivation to leave the office and be proactive in their job?

    Wes

    October 15, 2015 at 1:41 am

    • There is no oversight of the IIO per se. The CCD reports to the Deputy Minister in Justice. In this case Richard Fyfe who reports to the Minister, Susan Anton.

      Leo Knight

      October 15, 2015 at 5:02 pm

  15. IMO, this charge was not about punishing/convicting Constable Drought, this was about establishing a new office. The newspaper clearly stated in 2012 that the Independent Investigations Office was new. Of course, investing officers is not new, but like all government, it’s been decided that whatever is in place must be enhanced, which creates unnecessary jobs. Constable Drought was the first officer to be charged by this new office, and the charge(s) placed were to justify themselves. The CA was terribly underprepared at the preliminary, which likely meant he was green (or inept), so can be forgiven for botching one of his first cases, and he was likely assigned this case, strategically, for that reason. Whether they get a conviction or not, was not important, what was important was establishing themselves, and their function, in their new jobs. The CA, whether he did a good job or not, will garner the attention for his likewise efforts, distracting the public of this unnecessary and redundant department, and Constable Drought, exonerated or convicted, will forever be tainted by this political ploy.

    Amanda

    October 15, 2015 at 3:10 am

    • Oleh Kuzma was the Crown who approved, and prosecuted, this matter. He is the Deputy Director, Legal Operations at BC Public Service and has been with the Crown since 2001. He was called to the bar in 1976 in Ontario, been in BC since 1981 and was appointed QC in 2001. This matter had already been presented at a preliminary hearing, and committed to trial, so Kuzma should have been prepared. The reality is that there was no grounds to convict, let alone charge, and when the evidence was presented in open court it was clear to everyone that it should not have reached this stage. Kuzma stayed the charges an indicated that “new evidence” had come to light….what new evidence? Kuzma should be embarrassed to have been involved in this travesty. As for the IIO, Rosenthal is eager to get a scalp to hang on his wall before the Province sends him packing, which can’t happen soon enough.

      Rob

      October 15, 2015 at 3:24 am

      • It is the presentation at the preliminary hearing that I referred to. The evidence presented there was insufficient, and the attorney that presented the evidence at the preliminary was unprepared, yet the case was still sent to trial. No new evidence was presented at the preliminary, and no one understood why it wasn’t dismissed there.

        The important issue at hand is that people soon realize that the IIO is redundant, wasteful, and it be eliminated quickly.

        Amanda

        October 15, 2015 at 3:45 am

  16. Both Kuzma and Rosenthals heads should roll for this…..but they won’t BC is as anti police a province as I have ever had the misfortune of being posted to.

    Mark

    October 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

  17. Back in 1948 the cpl teaching criminal code on this subject said”Never shoot first if you don’t have to. Let the other guy shoot first and hope he is a lousy shot. ” This will be dangerous but save a lot of time in court.
    It would appear that mr. rosenthal doesn’t realize that a ton or two of steel aimed at you is as death dealing as a gun situation because you can’t kill or stop the vehicle with wishful thinking. You have to deter the driver. How do you do that? H e has fired first as his part so you must shoot second to save your own live. mr. rosenthal come out into the real world and think about what ;your action or that of any life loving Father, Son. or Husband would do. WAKE Up!!!!!

    John R Kerster ex/member 15481

    October 19, 2015 at 9:00 pm

  18. I am surely concerned for the future safety of police officers as they stop to take the time to measure distances, check to see that no one else is within a block of a armed robbery with one of the purps shooting at him before he draws and fires his weapon to defend himself or you or me.. I think our laws are being distorted and abused by bleeding hearts and lawyers looking for monitarial reward, not to mention weak willed politicians who are more interested in gaining votes than insuring the safety of citizens and the police officers who stand in front of us,putting their live’s on the line hopefully insuring that we don’t lose ours.I am appalled that the criminals have more rights than our men and women in police uniforms. An officer, as in this case has milliseconds to make a decision and the more restrictions and regulations that are created unnecessarily puts the officer in peril every minute they work.Please, lets use our heads and not tie the hands of our protectors or we may not live to rue the decisions that are now being tested in CRIMINAL COURT. It would seem to me this Officer life being threatened by the individual with the car at least warranted a charge of attempted murder being laid against the violator and certainly not laying this stupid charge against the Officer. Hopefully the Court will regain a semblance of fairness and sanity and drop this charge. Thank God he was not run over and killed. He stopped the idiot before he and his girl friend killed others as they sped through the night with no concerns for anyone else they came across. It is a miracle they didn’t kill those folks they stole the cars from and beat them up instead.Did the courts not take that into mind when they sentenced this screwball. Three years–shame on the judicial system, where is the justice and respect for this Police Officers life.

    God help us-have we all lost our minds.

    John Helgason

    October 20, 2015 at 10:58 pm

  19. This was certainly news to me. Utter ridiculousness and the people responsible for bringing up the charge against the officer should LOSE THEIR JOBS IMMEDIATELY. We should have no tolerance for this in any of our provinces. Rewrite the rules so that the ‘educated’ morons understand it clearly as well. Common sense is a myth and never lose sight of that.

    Michael

    October 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm

  20. Are you kidding me? Whatever happened to common sense? What are our police officers supposed to do within a matter of seconds when confronted a threat to their life? By today’s standards, probably analyze the criminal intent, decide on an appropriate action, advise the suspect of their intent, contact their supervisor for approval and then keep in mind public opinion before re-acting? What hogwash!

    Claude

    November 16, 2015 at 7:44 pm

  21. This This shit from A to Z how is a police officer suppose to protect himself. A vehicle about to run you over is not a treat to your life, 3 second decision live or die. Then prosecute the police officer for living. The RCMP senior managers are plain greedy and will do anything to collect their millions in bonuses each year. Oh I forgot a big regimental funeral so all senior officers can wear their suck up ribbons then send the bill to the widow or husband of the dead officer. 30 years of this shit.

    borody1089

    November 28, 2015 at 4:51 pm


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