Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Nearly a year later still no answers from IIO in police shooting

with 15 comments

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.

-30-

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Advertisements

Written by Leo Knight

December 1, 2015 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

15 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Is there not an avenue where a peace officer, such as in this case, can sue the IIO for taking so long ???

    Jim

    December 2, 2015 at 12:21 am

    • There is no mechanism in the Police Act nor the MOU that I am aware of that would allow that.

      Leo Knight

      December 2, 2015 at 12:24 am

  2. The only word that comes to mind… “Astounding!”

    Ian WHITTINGTON

    December 2, 2015 at 12:41 am

  3. II DOH strikes again!

    Ric

    December 2, 2015 at 4:07 am

  4. The buffoonery continues. Such ineptitude defies description. Disband these clowns immediately!

    Al Arsenault

    December 2, 2015 at 8:30 am

  5. We need an an investigative body formed to oversee the IIO investigations and address their shortcomings, their lack of expertise as well as failure to follow established investigative protocol.. Ask any Homicide Detective, serving or retired, if they would deal with Police Firearms at the scene in the manner as you have described. Never mind the manner in which bot officers were dealt with. Undressing them in a washroom and seizing their uniforms there? Scrambling to find them clothes? Check with certified Forensic Technicians and ask if this is how they used to deal with subject officers?
    Perhaps in order to get this outfit more investigative experience, perhaps the Gov’t can make them the investigative body for all other professional organizations……imagine how that would go over…..

    Anon

    December 2, 2015 at 8:50 am

    • This hits the nail on the head in more ways than one. The problem here is largely one where police have developed “professional practices” and accountability schemes but that the general populous does not want to recognize policing as a profession. Simply put, professions all have similar traits in that they are self governed. These governance bodies set standards by which they license people to practice in a set skill (nursing, engineering, medicine and often teaching) and the body then regulates, often within a legislative framework.

      Policing does not get this, we preach the concept of “professional policing” but without any of the benefits of self governance that any professional body would get. Could you imagine the uproar of a non-medically trained person was investigating what a doctor possibly did wrong? How could such a person possibly understand medicine? Yet here we are police officers being investigated by people with no understanding of use of force which is where their mandate mainly falls. Further they are expected to conduct investigations with no training on how to do this.

      In this way policing is treated much more like a trade. Where we have people who are highly trained to do their job, like red seal tradesmen, but we still have people designated from the Government come forward and inspect their work and sign off on it (ie occupancy permit). The difference however in this case is that most inspectors are highly trained and have experience where as the IIO seem to not be. Also most inspectors for trades operate from the auspices that things largely have been done correctly and that their is always room for improvement, where as the IIO seems to operate from the how can we get the bad cops standpoint.

      Stefan

      December 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm

  6. I would suggest that this whole investigation is tainted, completed by incompetent investigators determined to charge the officers involved without looking at the evidence. As a former forensic officer, having an investigator unload a firearm prior to it being examined forensically would have caused me to loose my mind and to do it in front of the officers involved is unthinkable! And I have had ballistic done on guns within a day…

    I am all for police oversight but it has got to be done in a professional, competent manner.

    Mark C

    December 2, 2015 at 6:52 pm

  7. Thankfully I am retired and more grateful that I never had to experience the IIO during my waning years of my career. Having heard the stories coming out of Ontario about their civilian police watchdog – SIU “Special Investigations Unit” and how it was coming to BC, I would think they might get some hindsight and build a “professional and competent” unit. But hindsight is 50/50. 50% chance you get it right and 50% chance you got it wrong. Well the IIO got it wrong and will continue to do so. Keep up the good work and be safe to all our working sisters and brothers…Ivan Chu

    Ivan Chu

    December 2, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    • Brother Chu, thank you very much! Great comments by Stefan and Mark.

      Anon

      December 2, 2015 at 9:43 pm

  8. It appears that the IIO considers all police members guilty until proven innocent by them. They come across to me like they are head hunting our police. How neutral is that. With all members actions being scrutinized how many people would now like to be peace officers knowing that they may have to deal with this type of controversy every time they go to work and may have to discharge their firearm. Do you think these people don’t deal with enough stress doing a thankless job. I think the ideology of the IIO needs to change or we are going to be in big trouble down the road.

    Brenda Kowan

    December 3, 2015 at 1:05 am

  9. The concept of an independent review, is worthy. But the question is by whom and at what level of competency. For example lets look at a plane crash, The Transport Safety Board (TSB) investigators are made up of airplane pilots and engineers, makes sense as they understand the subject matter and have years of experience prior to joining the TSB. How about building inspectors? Do they just walk in off the street and get a job? No of course not, they are hired for their expertise. Do driving examiners need a history of Driving, of course they do. So why on earth would you have someone investigating serious events, as an oversight function, that are not qualified to do so? From experience I know there is very little time to think about the long term consequences, when faced with a split second reaction. Sadly this might make someone hesitate, when their life was on the line and result in good people being hurt or worse!

    Steve Creagh

    December 3, 2015 at 10:09 pm

  10. Which is why more and more officers are doing very little police work other than responding to radio calls, covering other units on calls, (it is important not to be first at a call that may involve force being used) going for breaks and spending more time in the office. More officers are engaging in what is known as FIDO.

    Anon

    December 4, 2015 at 7:10 am

  11. Leo. Thank you for another excellent article. The incompetence of this group is incredible and their total lack of understanding of what this delay does to the involved officer is also incredible. You have to have been there to do this job professionally and the sooner we return this in total responsibility to police investigators the sooner matters will improve. The “ballistics” is laughable as an excuse as to why there has been no conclusion to this file. S/Sgt retired Andy Nimmo

    Andy Nimmo

    December 6, 2015 at 12:13 am

  12. Even Woody Allen would have a hard time building a sarcastic script around these zombies !!

    Dave Hardy

    December 31, 2015 at 9:56 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: