July 16, 2015 - 6:00 AM
VICTORIA - A second-degree-murder charge has been dropped against a police officer involved in a lengthy armed standoff outside a Vancouver-area casino.
The province's Criminal Justice Branch has applied for a stay of proceedings against Const. Jordan MacWilliams of the Delta Police Department, saying a comprehensive review of the incident means the case will not continue to a trial set for October.
"(The branch) has determined that the available evidence, considered in its entirety, no longer supports a viable prosecution of Const. MacWilliams for second-degree murder, or any other offence," the Justice Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
MacWilliams was one of more than two dozen officers involved in a standoff outside a casino in New Westminster on Nov. 8, 2012, but it ended with the death of 48-year-old Mehrdad Bayrami following what police described as a domestic dispute.
Police alleged they responded to a report from a Starlight Casino employee who told them he saw a man threatening a woman with a handgun through live security footage in the facility's parking lot.
Police said they were able to escort the woman to safety but that a three-and-a-half-hour standoff ensued, with MacWilliams fatally shooting Bayrami in the abdomen.
Based on video evidence that appeared to contradict police interviews, the Crown initially approved a second-degree-murder charge against MacWilliams in October 2014.
However, additional investigation led prosecutors to drop the charge.
"Of particular significance to the analysis was the nature and degree of danger that Mr. Bayrami actually posed to the officers on scene, and their reasonable perception of that danger," the branch said.
That reassessment included Bayrami's change in behaviour when he moved towards officers after sitting or kneeling on the ground for more than three hours. The branch noted the situation also escalated when police used rubber bullets.
The review involved interviewing 35 witnesses, including many of the officers at the standoff, and additional information from the province's police watchdog.
Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord expressed "overwhelming relief" at the decision, saying the charge had the potential to deeply affect police departments across Canada, both operationally and psychologically.
"As police officers, we are called upon to make instantaneous, life-or-death decisions," Dubord said in a statement.
"We sometimes encounter violent situations that force us to react in a manner to protect the public and ourselves. Police officers across Canada continue to sign on to this job knowing that we will face risk and the resulting scrutiny.
MacWilliams also faces a civil lawsuit from Bayrami's daughter, who has accused the officer of gross negligence and malicious misconduct. She said she suffered financial loss as a result of her father's death.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015