A Victoria police officer was justified in deploying a less-lethal weapon at a man exiting a converted motel over the summer, according to the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO).
Police were called to the housing complex the morning of July 24 after receiving a report that a resident may have shot a pellet gun through the window of his unit. The man was known to police, who believed he was suffering deteriorating mental health.
The man would later tell the IIO he believed he hadn’t done anything wrong and the police had no authority to arrest him, which is why he refused to comply with their requests.
Officers, stationed outside the suite, noticed a hole in the window with broken glass outside, consistent with having been caused by a round from a firearm. One officer told the IIO that he treated all firearms calls as involving real firearms until confirmed otherwise.
Roughly an hour after police arrived, they decided to call in the Emergency Response Team (ERT). It was determined that the man in the suite could leave the room so the situation could be de-escalated, but if he were to move beyond a line six feet from his doorway, it would be considered an attempt to flee and officers could use voice commands, a conducted energy weapon or an impact weapon such as an Anti-Riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN). If none of that worked, they would deploy a police dog or initiate a foot pursuit.
One officer said the man’s behaviour was increasingly unpredictable.
The call was re-classified from an arrest for mischief to an apprehension under the Mental Health Act.
At some point, the man exited the suite and started to walk away. He later told the IIO that he did not lie on the ground because of the broken glass, but did not communicate that concern to officers.
Two ARWEN rounds were discharged in the direction of the man’s thigh. Police moved in and provided medical attention. The man was transported to hospital and diagnosed with a fractured finger. Hospital records reportedly state that he was “recovering from [a] crystal meth induced state.”
The IIO, which investigates all police-involved incidents involving serious harm or death, found that all involved officers were acting in “lawful execution of their duty” and the plan, involving ARWEN and police service dogs, was reasonable in the circumstances.
The IIO said it was clear that a second round of ARWEN was deployed only when it became clear that the first hadn’t been effective. The man’s finger was broken because he reached for his thigh just before the shot was fired, the IIO found. The IIO wrote, “[The subject officer’s] use of force was necessary, reasonable and proportionate to the perceived risk of harm.”