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Lead-up to woman’s death included drug use, tense standoff with Victoria police

Massing of Victoria police followed descent into ‘drug psychosis’
The couch from the apartment Lisa Rauch had barricaded herself into. A curling iron is shown sitting in the couch, possibly the cause of the fire that gave urgency to the police response, during which Rauch was killed. (Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner)

Day two of the public hearing into a police officer’s use of force in the 2019 death of 43-year-old Lisa Rauch included witness testimony and surveillance footage that showed a situation ongoing from a drug-fuelled disruption to a chaotic, smoke-filled scene full of police and firefighters.

This evidence presented a portrait of a Christmas afternoon in which drug and alcohol use were spiralling in and out of a Pandora Avenue apartment, with those involved becoming more and more out of control as day progressed.

The resulting response ramped up to the point where more than a dozen police officers and firefighters were geared up and ready for action in the hallway outside the unit where Rauch had holed up, allegedly high on methamphetamine and in a “drug psychosis.”

The hearing is being held after a request by Rauch’s family that a review be conducted of the investigation by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, which had cleared the officer of wrongdoing in his use of force when he shot and killed Rauch with an anti-riot weapon.

Evidence presented on Tuesday (April 16) morning included footage from the surveillance camera in the hallway, as well as photos from inside the apartment after the incident. Testimony was heard from the unit’s rightful occupant, Sylvia Dick.

Pictures of the apartment were also presented, and Dick was able to tell the hearing what the layout of her place was, including that a couch faced away from the entrance door. Rauch had previously been reported to be sitting on a couch when the Anti-Riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN) rounds hit the back of her head.

Other photos depicted another couch in the unit with a curling iron resting on a burned-out portion, showing that there was indeed a fire in the unit.

The surveillance footage shows Rauch entering the building shortly after 1:30 p.m. She immediately begins kicking and banging on doors, including suite 311 where Dick lived. Dick said she had known Rauch for some time, and in the video footage it is shown that she let her in.

Dick testified that Rauch had asked to come in to drink alcohol. Over the next two hours, the video shows — and Dick’s testimony confirms — that the two women each went in and out of the apartment several times, as did several other people.

More alcohol was purchased and methamphetamine was brought in and consumed.

“I can see her going into a psychosis,” Dick said of Rauch after she consumed some of the methamphetamine. “Her head started to swirl around, she wasn’t herself.”

At one point an argument erupted and several people poured out of the apartment into the hall.

More time elapses and more people come and go, but eventually Dick can be seen coming out of the apartment and making a motion that Victoria police Const. Rob Taylor — who is the officer who confiscated the footage initially and who answered questions about it at the hearing — interpreted as a motion meant to explain someone is holding a knife.

Dick said she had left because Rauch’s psychosis was escalating, and when she came back to the door, Rauch had a knife. So Dick went to find a staff member at the complex to have them contact police.

About 10 minutes later, the first police officers arrived on scene.

This begins a gradual buildup of forces in the hallway outside the room. Other apartments are evacuated.

Officers who are part of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team arrive, geared up in helmets and carrying the weapon that would kill Rauch. The (ARWEN) is not meant to be lethal, but it does fire a roughly three-inch by one-inch barrel-shaped object designed to cause enough pain to stop a person.

One of the three ARWEN projectiles fired by police that hit Lisa Rauch in the back of the head. (Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner)

Firefighters also arrive on the scene, and it is apparent there is a fire in the unit where Rauch is holed up.

As officers attempt get into the apartment, it is clear they are taken aback by something, presumably smoke. They regrouped with firefighters in line with them and make another charge.

Just 46 seconds later, the mass of personnel can be seen backing down the hallway — toward the surveillance camera — carrying a person.

According to Taylor’s narration of the footage, they were carrying Rauch, who was taken out and into the building’s courtyard, where police and firefighters began chest compressions. Rauch was soon taken to the hospital, where she later died.

The public hearing is scheduled to take three weeks, with a week break. It is set to wrap up on May 10.

READ MORE: Hearing begins to review Victoria police officer’s actions in woman’s death

About the Author: Mark Page

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