Archive for December 2015
Sorry for the lack of updates these past few weeks. I took some time to get out of the Vancouver rain and grabbed my clubs to play some dry golf courses down in the Nevada desert.
Then there was that Christmas thing. Was yours good? Yeah, me too. But my guess is that Christmas wasn’t so good for at least one Vancouver Police officer whose actions have been under investigation by the Independent Investigations Office’s (IIO) since April of 2014 in what should be cut and dried circumstances.
Now, one might wonder, what could be so complicated that Richard Rosenthal’s crack team of investigators is taking so long? Well, nothing really I can see, so what goes on? Let’s have a look at what happened.
Just after 10:30 a.m. on the morning of April 14th, 2014, VPD responded to a disturbance call to an apartment building in the 3300 block of Kingsway. The caller to 9-1-1 said there was a child crying, a man yelling and blood on the hallway walls.
Responding officers arrived to find a man in the hallway screaming, with a knife, and a toddler on the hallway floor grievously wounded with multiple stabs wounds to her head. One officer drew his sidearm while the other drew his collapsible ASP baton. They made repeated demands for the man to drop the knife.
The officer with the baton, a former British cop used to non-lethal responses in edged weapon incidents, tried to disarm the man using his baton. When that didn’t work, he began to draw his sidearm and his partner fired three shots at the man, hitting him once in the hand. They were able to take him into custody and get medical help for the toddler.
They then discovered that right behind their suspect in the doorway of an apartment was a dead woman in her 60’s. She had over 150 stab wounds on her body. It also turned out she was the suspect’s mother and she had been babysitting the little girl, the suspect’s niece.
The little girl and the suspect, 33 year old Ka Chi David Siu, were both taken to hospital. Police said at the time the little girl suffered multiple wounds with potentially ‘life altering’ consequences.
She had been stabbed in the head at least nine times. At least one penetrated her skull and cut into her brain. By some miracle, and with the skilled care of the doctors and nurses at BC Children’s Hospital, the little girl has made a near full recovery. And yet, in the long months that recovery took, the IIO has yet to conclude its investigation into the matter.
Apparently, a complicating factor was that one of the three rounds fired by the VPD officer was located in the corpse of the suspect’s mother. It most likely missed the suspect who was flailing and hit his victim. Weird? Sure, but it isn’t a factor in anything. She was already dead. She had over 150 stab wounds, many, according to the pathologist who conducted the autopsy were delivered post mortem. She had bled out long before the VPD arrived on scene.
The only question to answer by the IIO is whether the officer was justified in discharging his weapon in the circumstances? That’s it. But, yet again, the IIO can’t seem to come to a conclusion that the police acted appropriately and within the authority given to them by the law.
The witness officer, the former Brit, gave a full and detailed statement. He said when he realized the baton wasn’t going to work, he was reaching for his sidearm when his partner shot the male suspect.
He also said he was fearful for the safety of the child on the floor and that there was no other option but to engage with his sidearm. And, he said that he would have, had his partner not already done so.
It should also be noted that the 9-1-1 caller was still on the line with police from her apartment and much of the events were audio recorded on the eComm recording system.
The shot suspect was taken to hospital and treated. The IIO tried to get a statement from him but could not due to his mental health issues. VPD charged the man with second degree murder a few days later. He was determined, after psych assessments, to be unfit to face trial in October 2014 and remains remanded to a secured psyche facility.
Here we are at the end of 2015 and still nothing from the IIO. No report explaining why the police were justified in their actions, pursuant to their charter or, no report to Criminal Justice Branch suggesting the officer ‘may’ – God, I hate that phraseology – have committed a crime.
So, about five days after the event, the Homicide investigators of VPD concluded their investigation and laid charges of Murder 2. The glacial-like BC court system dealt with the matter within six months. Yet, here we are 20 months later and the IIO can’t seem to figure out what happened and conclude its file one way or the other.
Yet more evidence of a flawed and dysfunctional organization. What, in the world, could they possibly be waiting for?
On December 28, 2014, at 8:03 a.m. Naverone Woods, 23, took a knife from a shelf in an aisle in the Safeway store on King George Highway and 104th Ave. in Surrey. He was screaming and self-inflicting cuts when a bakery worker who heard the disturbance called 9-1-1.
Two transit officers, one male and one female, happened to be only metres away looking for a male who had been seen banging his head on a wall at Surrey Central Skytrain station. Because they are multi-jurisdictional, they monitor local police radio traffic.
They heard the Surrey RCMP call at the Safeway and went there quickly likely believing the calls were related. As it happened, the RCMP had no members available to respond so the Transit officers were on their own.
When they got inside the store they found a situation with a bleeding, shirtless man with a knife trying to get at the bakery worker, who, after she called 9-1-1 went to have a look at what was going on. Woods spotted her and began chasing her. She retreated to the bakery and took cover behind two large bakery racks she pushed to block the entry leading to the area behind the bakery counter.
The two officers immediately engaged Woods, yelling for him to drop the knife. He turned his attention towards the officers and began heading towards them. More warnings and finally two shots fired by the female officer. One struck a refrigeration unit behind the suspect and the other hit Woods and dropped him.
EHS rushed him to hospital where he later died.
Those are the facts as we know them culminated from Anne Drennan, spokesperson for the Transit Police, media reports at the time including interviews with Blake Simming, boyfriend of the bakery worker who learned of the details shortly after when he rushed down there to comfort his distraught girlfriend after she texted him.
The lawyer representing the female officer has been trying to find out what is taking the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) so long to conclude their investigation. He has been querying the IIO and the only response he is given is they are waiting for ballistics tests back from the lab.
Wait, what? Ballistics? They have the weapon used and a statement from the officer describing her actions. Why the need for ballistics which is used to determine if the bullet came from a particular weapon? They know which weapon was used. They have it. They have the remaining bullets in the weapon and they have the weapon, not fired, carried by the male officer. Where’s the mystery that they would need ballistics?
There is no earthly reason in the world that they should be holding up their determination waiting on ballistics.
The store had just opened at the time and there were few if any customers, only staff. The grocery store was sealed down and about 20 civilian witnesses were held for interviews. The store has CCTV cameras which recorded events.
If the IIO believes there is something in what happened that may constitute misconduct by the officer, ballistics won’t change that. Conversely, if they believe the shooting was justified based on the facts and the evidence they have, then again, ballistics won’t change a thing.
What in the world are they waiting for?
I spoke to Kevin Woodall, lawyer for the officer to get his take on things. He is frustrated. “There is no excuse, with a file as important as this, it should take this long,” he said.
“The public have a right to know if the police acted appropriately, the family of the dead man has the right to know. And the officer, whose action’s are under investigation has a right to know.”
Indeed, the family held a vigil in March in which they gave a statement to the media demanding answers.
To me, this is a competence issue. The IIO really doesn’t know what they’re doing. They aren’t looking at things to determine whether the use of force was justified or not, but to see what they can dredge up to charge the officer with something, anything.
IIO investigators attended the RCMP building where the Transit officers were taken by Surrey RCMP following the shooting. The officers were told to accompany RCMP officers to the washrooms and to give up their uniforms. Literally, they were stripped to their underwear and arrangements had to be made to get some civilian clothing for them to wear so they could leave the washrooms.
The IIO investigators even seized their personal wristwatches and, I might add, the support wristbands for Delta Cst. Jordan Macwilliams they were both wearing. I kid you not. They tried to take their personal cell phones too, but at that point their union representative pushed back.
Now, I ask you, what possible evidentiary value would there be to seizing their complete uniforms, wristwatches, boots and the support wristbands for a brother officer? And from both officers, not just the officer who fired the shots?
I couldn’t think of any possible reason. So I asked a former homicide investigator, a current homicide investigator and a couple of former IIO investigators why might they have seized those things from the two officers. No one could think of a reason.
In point of fact, when the IIO investigators were retrieving items including the weapons, they counted out the bullets in front of the members who had just been involved in the shooting. Then a present Transit officer, there to support his colleagues had to show the IIO investigator how to properly seal the evidence bag.
Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up. Now, if you were a police officer doing your job, how confident would you be with these people conducting the investigation of your actions?
The female officer returned to duty after some counselling to ensure she was okay. She believes she acted appropriately, but now, nearly a year later, she is getting stressed because of how long this has been dragging on.
No one with a stake in this, not the public, the family nor the officer has yet to get answers in this.
Meanwhile, back at the IIO their crack team of investigators are still waiting on ballistics tests. The mind boggles.