Plain-clothed police watchdog exonerates two RCMP officers who shot dead a man in Quesnel, BC, in 2021
British Columbia’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has acquitted two RCMP officers in Quesnel, about 120 kilometers south of Prince George, of shooting dead a man in his vehicle on August 31, 2021.
In a written news release following the shooting, BC RCMP said officers located a vehicle in a downtown parking lot at the 400 block of Carson Ave at 3:30 a.m. PT. checked and found a man sleeping in it.
The first statement said the man reportedly reached for a firearm and fired shots.
Whenever someone is seriously injured or killed during an interaction with police, the IIO initiates a separate investigation into the incident.
For its six-page report on the incident, released Feb. 10, the IIO spoke to three civilian witnesses, two paramedics and five witness officers, listened to police radio reports and audio of police radio broadcasts, and viewed CCTV footage from close-up properties.
Investigators also conducted a forensic examination of the crime scene, searched the victim’s vehicle and examined medical evidence, including a post-mortem report.
The victim was known to the police
According to the report, a Jeep Cherokee pulled into a parking lot on Carson Avenue and stopped at 1:41 a.m
At 3:17 a.m., a police officer pulled up behind the vehicle and called for backup, knowing the vehicle had not stopped for police about two days earlier.
Two marked police vehicles, one unmarked police vehicle, and four officers initially responded to the scene, but only two of the officers fired the shots that killed the victim.
Witnesses who were at the scene but did not shoot told the IIO that as they approached the Jeep, the man inside appeared to be asleep and had a shotgun next to him on the passenger-side floor.
“The officers recognized it [the victim] as a local drug dealer known for carrying guns,” the report said.
“[He] had a significant prior conviction related to firearms and drug offenses and was currently the subject of a gun ban and pending warrant.
The victim probably shot first
According to the report, all four officers drew their pistols and stepped behind police vehicles. Two of the officers donned body armor and armed themselves with carbine rifles before yelling at the man to get out of the vehicle, show his hands and not reach for his gun.
A fifth officer arrived just before 3:26 a.m. and told the IIO he heard one of the officers say “something to the effect” that the man in the jeep was loading a firearm.
Another officer said he saw the victim leaning on the passenger side and believed he was reaching for the shotgun.
A civilian witness, who passed by on his bike, said he saw police officers surrounding the Jeep with guns drawn and was about three blocks away when he heard a “barrage” of gunfire.
The IIO report states that the victim’s shotgun was fired once up through the jeep’s sunroof. Of the two officers who fired their carbine rifles, one fired only twice while the second fired between 26 and 29 shots.
“That’s what the autopsy report said [the victim] died from a total of 11 gunshot wounds. All wounds were front-to-back, with none fired at close range,” the IIO said.
Mounties Had “Reasonable Reasons” For Deadly Violence: IIO
The report concludes that officers acted in the lawful capacity of their duty by investigating a suspicious vehicle and attempting to arrest a man they recognized from warrants and criminal records.
The report says evidence of a fired grenade in the shotgun chamber, the sunroof badly damaged and statements from officers show the victim’s gun was likely fired before he was shot dead by police.
While noting that the Mounties had “reasonable reasons” to use deadly force, the IIO questioned why one officer fired only two shots and repositioned himself while the second fired over 26 rounds at the victim.
“While [the second officer’s] The actions may not have been perfect, they were not unreasonable and they do not reach the level of criminality,” reads the conclusion, authored by IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald.
MacDonald says any concerns about the officer’s performance and tactics will be left to the RCMP to consider.