UPDATE: Kelowna RCMP officer cleared of wrongdoing after shooting illegal camper | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: Kelowna RCMP officer cleared of wrongdoing after shooting illegal camper

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December 06, 2018 - 2:29 PM

KELOWNA - The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. today ruled that it was reasonable for an RCMP officer “to act in defence of herself” by shooting a man camped illegally in Kelowna in the summer of 2017.

An RCMP officer and a Kelowna bylaw officer engaged a man at a homeless camp on Duck Lake Road on Aug. 3, 2017. Police said at the time that efforts to "de-escalate" the situation were unable to resolve the situation and the RCMP officer shot the man.

Chief civilian director Ronald J. MacDonald says in his report, released today, Dec. 6, as the police and City of Kelowna employee approached the camp, the man came out of his tent and waved an axe handle in a threatening manner. 

They backed away and despite orders by the RCMP officer, the camper refused to drop his weapon and kept approaching the officer, who subsequently shot and seriously wounded him.

The officer was not required to provide a written statement, notes or reports of data to the independent investigations office so did not.

The victim, identified as the Affected Person (AP) said he was in his tent when he heard the officer, came out of the tent and was told to stand still. He said he didn’t move towards the officer. He said he hit the axe handle on the ground in frustration and was shot.

The City of Kelowna employee (identified in the report as CW1) testified that the camper, in fact, took several steps towards them, waved the axe handle around and yelled, “You’re going to have to shoot me. I’m not leaving here.”

CW1 said the officer told AP he had to lay down his weapon and continued to back away until hitting a barbed wire fence, having drawn her gun and radioed for backup.

The bylaw officer told investigators the officer said: "Drop it... drop it... You don't want to do this."

She shot AP when he was about 5.5 metres away.

“Officer 1 was faced with an angry man advancing toward her with a large axe handle in a threatening manner,” the report states. “The fact he had failed to comply with any direction from the officer only made the perceived threat worse. While she attempted to retreat to safety, she found herself blocked by the fence. Thus, it was certainly reasonable for her to conclude that this non-compliant and angry male with a significant weapon could easily cause her imminent grievous bodily harm.

"It was therefore reasonable for officer 1 to act in defence of herself and CW1 by shooting AP."

But the report also raises other questions, specifically about the RCMP statement at the time of the incident. The release came from B.C. RCMP headquarters, when normally information is released by the Kelowna detachment. 

That release got a key detail entirely wrong. The release by Cpl. Janelle Shoihet said the man had a knife. She clarified in an email how that information was released.

"We base the initial news release on first instance, preliminary information to dispatch that was available at the time of writing," she said. "In this case, the information we received was the man was allegedly in possession of a knife, as such that is what was issued. We also indicated in our release that "all aspects and the circumstances of this incident will be subject of independent investigation and verification by the IIO B.C.""

MacDonald would not comment on the RCMP release, except to say that he was aware of what the RCMP said just hours after the incident. 

"Our investigation did not uncover the presence of a knife," he said. "What led them to say that is up to them (to respond to.)"

According to court records, Shadwyn Nelson, born in 1978, was charged with three offences from that incident, including assaulting a peace officer with a weapon, resisting a peace officer and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose. He pleaded guilty May 30, 2018. It's unclear what his sentence was. 

— with files from Marshall Jones

— This story was updated at 1:55 p.m. to include additional information from the IIO and court records. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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