New West police officer cleared in 2016 shooting of shoplifter

A New Westminster police officer has been cleared of charges in a non-fatal 2016 shooting near Walmart on Boyd Street.

According to a B.C. Prosecution Service news release, the Independent Investigations Office, the body that investigates cases of police-involved serious harm and death, had found reasonable grounds to approve charges against the unnamed officer.

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“Following a thorough review of the available evidence, the BCPS has concluded that the evidence does not support approving any charges against the (officer),” reads the BCPS statement. “The charge assessment was conducted by a senior Crown Counsel with no prior or current connection to the officers who were the subject of the IIO investigation.”

The BCPS considered three charges: aggravated assault/assault with a weapon, attempted murder and careless use of a firearm. Police officers must not use force unless necessary, and when they do use force, it is up to prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the force was excessive or unnecessary.

According to the summary of the incident, the BCPS says officers were deployed to the Walmart at 805 Boyd Street in Queensborough Landing, where one shoplifting suspect was taken into custody without incident.

A second suspect fled police but fell to the ground after he was hit by a Taser. The BCPS report speculates that in rolling after landing on the ground, the Taser became detached from the man, who then drew a silver handgun and pointed it at two officers and a witness.

The officer in question drew their gun and shot twice before a pursuit began. The officer fired another shot during the chase, and then five more shots as the suspect approached a grassy area.

The evidence indicated the suspect did not drop his gun, which had no clip but a bullet in the chamber, during the pursuit.

A use-of-force expert found the officer’s actions to be in line with the officer’s training.

The expert determined that the first two shots were appropriate after the suspect drew his handgun, and no bystanders were ever in the line of sight when the officer fired his gun.

“Permitting the suspect to escape while still in possession of his handgun would have been neither a reasonable nor a safe response,” the report adds, citing the expert.

In the BCPS analysis of the incident, lawyers found the officer “had a reasonable basis to believe that the (officer) and anyone in the immediate vicinity was at risk of grievous bodily harm or death” after the “agitated” interaction with the suspect.

Further, the report notes the suspect did not comply, during the pursuit, with demands he drop the weapon.

“It is reasonable to infer that the suspect posed a continuing risk of grievous bodily harm or death to the officers and those in the area, including occupants of the nearby stores. The (officer) had a common law duty to protect those persons,” the analysis reads.

“As the Crown would be unable to disprove the legal justifications and defences that arise from the facts of the case, there is no substantial likelihood of a conviction and no charges have been approved.”

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