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Delta Const. Jordan MacWilliams' police colleagues supported stay of murder charge

07/14/2015 09:16 EDT | Updated 07/14/2016 05:59 EDT
Crown prosecutors met with "an outright assertion of bias" from some police witnesses as they tried to build a second-degree murder case against Delta Police Const. Jordan MacWilliams.

But B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch says officer interviews were still convincing enough to warrant staying charges against the emergency response team member who shot Mehrdad Bayrami in an armed standoff in 2012.

"Despite the existence of factual inconsistencies, and the indication of bias from a few of the police witnesses, Crown Counsel are satisfied that, on the whole, the evidence of the officers on scene is reasonably capable of belief," the CJB said in a statement.

'Sense of relief'

The decision to stay proceedings comes more than a year and a half after the CJB announced the rare and controversial decision to charge MacWilliams.

Fellow officers rallied to his side, wearing blue wristbands and complaining he was being punished for making the kind of split-second life-or-death decision which is crucial to police work.

Delta police Chief Neil Dubord said he is relieved to see the prosecution come to an end.

"Today, we feel an overwhelming sense of relief for Jordan MacWilliams, his family, the men and women of the Delta Police Department, and indeed all police officers across Canada," he said.

"The charges laid by direct indictment had the potential to deeply impact police across Canada, both operationally and psychologically."

Lethal overwatch

The lengthy CJB statement describes both the justification for the initial charge as well as the reasoning which later led to the stay.

At the time of the incident on Nov. 8, 2012, MacWilliams was a member of the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT), which drew members from Abbotsford, Delta, Port Moody and New Westminster.

According to the CJB, the incident began at 5:45 a.m. PT when Bayrami accosted his former domestic partner with a loaded handgun.

Police helped her to safety, but he then held at least 27 officers at bay for the next three-and-a-half hours.

MacWilliams was assigned 'lethal overwatch', which meant he was allowed to shoot Bayrami if he believed it was necessary to protect himself or others. 

Although Bayrami generally pointed the gun at his own head or chest, the CJB says he may also have appeared to point it at the police at times.

He was repeatedly told to put down his weapon and surrender.

Things changed around 10:40 am, when Bayrami began walking towards the officers with the gun pointing skyward; he was first shot with non-lethal bullets from an ARWEN gun.

Bayrami then stepped back, and police detonated a 'flash bang' explosive device. At that point he stepped back further and brought the gun down to where it was pointing at the ground.

"Just as the arc of his ram reaches a full downward position and his gun is pointing directly to the ground, two 'pops' can be heard in quick succession," the statement reads.

'Did not surrender'

Bayrami ultimately died of a gunshot wound, and the incident was investigated by B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office which prepared the report to Crown Counsel that led to charges.

The Criminal Code gives law officers the right to use lethal force if they believe reasonable grounds exist to show they or others are in danger.

MacWilliams maintained he thought Bayrami would shoot either him or a fellow officer if he wasn't stopped.

According to the CJB, Crown originally charged the officer because a video of the incident showed Bayrami moving backwards at the time of the shooting, with the gun pointing at the ground.

But after conducting more than 35 witness interviews, the CJB says the officers on the scene saw things differently.

"Although he was moving backwards, Mr. Bayrami did not  surrender and he was still holding a loaded handgun," the statement said.

"Irrespective of whether Mr. Bayrami actually intended to point his handgun at the police, several officers said they saw the muzzle of his gun pointing in their direction."

The CJB says evidence from those officers would be admissible at trial and would likely provide the basis for reasonable doubt, defence would need for an acquittal at trial.

MacWilliams still faces a lawsuit from Bayrami's daughter as well as an ongoing Police Act investigation.

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