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Expert testifying in Rauch hearing finds no fault in Victoria police response

Lisa Rauch, 43, died after being shot by an anti-riot weapon in 2019
Lisa Rauch died after a standoff with police that ended up with anti-riot ammunition being deployed. (Photo Courtesy Rauch Family)

As the public hearing into the Christmas Day 2019, police-involved death of Lisa Rauch, 43, continues, an use-of-force expert testified on May 1, 2024 saying officers followed a textbook approach, and were justified in their response.

After reviewing written statements from the officers involved and other evidence, public safety consultant Michael Massine called it a “very sound, measured approach to resolving the situation with what I believe would be the least amount of force necessary to safely apprehend Ms. Rauch.”

“But again, I have to stress, that in the exigencies and the confusion and all the outlying factors, that’s unfortunately not what happened.”

Rauch had holed up that afternoon in a supportive housing unit on Pandora Avenue, allegedly high on methamphetamine and wielding a knife. The unit’s rightful resident summoned police. Because of the reported presence of the knife, police considered Rauch a threat of causing “grievous bodily harm or death.”

She died after being hit with rounds from an Anti-Riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN) rifle, fired by officer Ron Kirkwood.

An ARWEN is generally deployed by police as a non-lethal force option. Massine testified that there really are no “non-lethal” weapons, and options like the ARWEN, Tasers or bean-bag shotguns can all cause death if used a certain way.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) hearing is being held in Victoria at the request of Rauch’s family. It follows investigations by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) and the OPCC that had both cleared Kirkwood of wrongdoing in the shooting of Rauch with the ARWEN.

Massine was called to testify as to the appropriateness of the force option chosen — the ARWEN — and whether correct protocols were followed throughout the incident, as well as how all of that compares to national standards.

Massine has provided expert witness testimony in 17 trials. He is also a former member of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team — the same group that responded that day, and which Kirkwood is a member.

He began by laying out the standard method for determining what an officer’s force options are in a given situation. These range from mere police presence, up to lethal force.

Under this framework, if an officer is in danger of grievous bodily or death, they have the right to respond with lethal force.

Because Rauch was reported to have a knife, any action by her toward officers would fall under this category. In this situation, there was also a fire in the unit. Police had brought in firefighters to help respond to this.

This fire could also place officers at risk, Massine testified.

Officers responded in a stack formation that included firefighters, Kirkwood with the ARWEN and an officer with a regular firearm. When they burst in, the firefighter sprayed out the fire, but smoke still made it difficult to see.

A statement from Kirkwood was read in which he said the officer with the regular firearm had told him to shoot with the ARWEN, so that officer didn’t have to shoot with bullets.

Rauch was hit three times in the back of the head. According to his statement, Kirkwood believed he was shooting at her stomach.

Massine went over all these events, and called it a “no-win situation” given all that officers were facing, including that they were trying to get her out of the unit without themselves getting hurt, while also putting out the fire and rescuing Rauch from the fire.

“I can’t find any fault,” Massine said. “I would have acted similarly”

Kirkwood himself is scheduled to testify on Thursday, May 2.

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About the Author: Mark Page

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