BRITISH COLUMBIA

Christopher Ray Dead: Officer Cleared In Vancouver Shooting

05/17/2013 12:57 EDT | Updated 11/04/2013 08:31 EST
SURREY, B.C. - A police officer had no choice but to shoot a knife-wielding Vancouver man last October, says British Columbia's police watchdog in a report that cleared the officer involved of any wrongdoing in the death of Christopher Ray.

The Independent Investigations Office said Friday a Vancouver police officer was responding to a call about a man smashing windows near residences when the officer saw 52-year-old Ray striking parked cars with his hand.

The report says the officer involved saw that Ray had something in his fist, and was yelling at the officer to, "Come here, let's do this." The officer told him to stay back, but Ray ran towards him instead.

When the officer saw that Ray was holding a knife, he shot him twice. Ray died at the hospital.

"[The officer] had no choice but to shoot Mr. Ray who was, at the time, aggressively approaching him, even attacking him with a knife, a lethal weapon in a dangerous position, and he was required to defend himself accordingly," Richard Rosenthal, chief civilian director of the IIO, told reporters on Friday.

The report notes the officer had asked for assistance, saying, "Make it a hurry up," when he saw that Ray appeared to be confrontational. But within 25 seconds of that call for help, Ray had come within 10 meters of the officer, and the officer had fired his weapon.

Rosenthal said a majority of civilian witnesses, as well as a dog handler who had been dispatched to the call, confirmed the officer had acted in self defence.

Rosenthal also said that while the officer involved had a less lethal shotgun in his van, there was no time to get it. He also did not have a Taser, but even if he did, he could not have used it to subdue Ray.

"He had no officer who could have covered him and protected him in the event the Taser was ineffective, and Tasers are not always effective in stopping people," Rosenthal said.

"With somebody running at an officer with a knife, unless there are other officers who are present to assist, a less lethal option is really not available to them and his only option was to use lethal force in order to protect himself from potentially being seriously injured or killed."

The case will now be referred to the Vancouver Police Department and the Police Complaints Commission.

The IIO also concluded on Friday that in a separate case, a Prince George Mountie acted lawfully when he chased after a man in response to reports of someone banging on doors in an apartment building in March.

During the pursuit, the man jumped and fell into a ravine, seriously injuring himself.

"All he did was order the person to stop. When he didn't stop, he chased him," said Rosenthal. "There is no reason to believe there was any contact between the RCMP officer and our affected person."

The officer reported then that he was out on foot behind the apartment building when "the guy decided to take a great big leap off the hill there."

He had apparently gotten within grabbing distance of the man, but then he saw the nearby ravine.

"I brought my hand back," he told investigators. "I never actually touched him at all because I didn't want to get dragged down the embankment with him. Because he was in full flight and he jumped off the embankment...he didn't run like he was trying to keep on solid ground, he jumped."

The IIO report said investigators also interviewed the man while he was being treated in the hospital. He said he remembered nothing except that he had been drinking with friends before then and then woke up in the hospital with his injuries.

Earlier this month, the IIO also cleared RCMP officers of any offence in the shooting death of a former Canadian military peacekeeping during a confrontation at his northern B.C. property.

Since the IIO became operational in September 2012, the body has referred three cases to Crown counsel. Rosenthal said the Crown has declined a use-of-force case in Creston, but is considering whether to lay charges on an officer-related shooting in Cranbrook, and a serious motor vehicle accident in Campbell River.

The office currently has 21 cases under its jurisdiction, four of which are pending cases involving officer-related shooting.

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