Family of B.C. man shot by RCMP says independent investigator 'designed to fail' - InfoNews

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Family of B.C. man shot by RCMP says independent investigator 'designed to fail'

April 06, 2018 - 2:26 PM

VANCOUVER - The family of a British Columbia man fatally shot by RCMP is asking questions about the office that investigates police-involved deaths across the province, saying its very structure makes it "designed to fail."

Peter de Groot was living on a homestead in southeastern B.C., when he was involved in a confrontation with RCMP in October 2014 and fled into the bush.

The 45-year-old, described by his family as an accomplished scholar who had suffered a disabling brain aneurysm, was found in a cabin four days later and police have said he was shot and killed by an officer after he pointed a rifle at them.

A report released March 29 by the Independent Investigations Office concludes the officer's actions were justified and charges are not warranted, but de Groot's family says in a statement that many key issues remain unanswered.

They say the office carefully selected the evidence used in its report, that it was stymied by a lack of resources and received no co-operation from the RCMP officer who fired the fatal shot.

Ron MacDonald, chief civilian director of the office, said in an interview Friday that the law clearly states people who are being investigated for a potential criminal offence can't be forced to give a statement.

"That has to be their voluntary choice, and that's what the Supreme Court of Canada has told us."

The family's lawyer, Donald Sorochan, said the structure of the Independent Investigations Office makes delays and inadequate results inevitable.

Sorochan said the agency is modelled on Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, but in setting up B.C.'s office, the province "ignored the many years of challenges and resistance to oversight by police stakeholders in Ontario, which had necessitated several reports by senior judges."

B.C.'s office uses a memorandum of understanding with police agencies and doesn't have the "statutory and regulatory enactment foundation" found in Ontario, Sorochan said in a statement issued Friday on behalf of de Groot's family.

"Unlike Ontario, the IIO is required to investigate actions of members of the RCMP, a force that does not welcome oversight by anyone outside their ranks," he said.

The report clearing the RCMP officer of wrongdoing does not comment on most of the interaction between de Groot and police, focusing instead on whether there was any basis for a criminal charge, the family statement said.

"We had been led to believe that the long wait (for the report) was because the IIO was working to ensure that the entirety of facts and evidence would lead them to their conclusions," it said.

"What has been produced is a document that does not include an account from both police officers involved and does not rely on the entirety of forensic evidence available."

MacDonald said that information only helped them understand what would have been in the minds of the two officers who went to the cabin.

"The key relevance here is what happened at the cabin when the door was opened," he said.

The family points to a post-mortem that they say reveals wounds suffered before and after death that are suggestive of excessive force.

MacDonald said there were no other injuries on the body that played a significant role in the shooting.

"I can assure the people of British Columbia that this file was very, very thoroughly examined," he said. "The bottom line here is the evidence is that once the door was opened, a gun was pointed directly at a police officer and he was therefore faced with a threat of immanent death."

De Groot's family members are calling for better resources for the Independent Investigations Office so it does not have to "beg or borrow" the forensic experts it needs to complete its reports.

MacDonald said it is his office's job to decided if an offence has been committed and, the other questions from the family are not the mandate of the IIO. He said the BC Coroners Office and the Civilian Review and Complainants Commission for the RCMP are established to answer the those questions.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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