The Independent Investigation Office says both the man and woman involved in a Whalley standoff on March 29 were shot dead by police.
“The male died from multiple gunshot wounds from police and the female died from two gunshot wounds that came from police firearms,” Ron MacDonald, chief civilian director of the IIO, told the Now-Leader Thursday.
Did anyone shoot at police?
“There was a report of a hostage situation of a male who had a gun and had a female hostage,” he replied. “The exact conclusions of exactly what happened, including your question, I don’t really want to get into at this point because before we talk about all those details I want to make sure I have all the facts so I can draw all the conclusions and then speak to the public about that.”
The standoff saw roughly two dozen police vehicles, as well as an armoured vehicle, surround a home at a cul-de-sac near 132A Street and 100A Avenue. The IIO is investigating what led to the shooting. The man was pronounced dead at the scene and the woman died in hospital.
The Surrey-based IIO was set up in September 2012 with the aim of keeping B.C. police officers accountable in incidents involving deaths and serious injuries. The Integrated Homicide Team is also conducting a parallel investigation.
Asked if the woman was hit by “stray” bullets, MacDonald said “those are exactly the questions that we are asking and examining, exactly how that came to happen. The focus of police was the male, not the female, obviously, so we can’t really answer those questions at this point in time but those questions are no doubt the questions that will be in your mind and the minds of your readers so that’s exactly what we’re looking at from every angle we can.”
According to a IIO update released Thursday morning its investigation “continues into all aspects of this matter, with the goal to determine whether police actions were lawful, proportionate and reasonable, or if any offence may have been committed.”
Meantime, the IIO has conducted more than 40 interviews with civilian and police witnesses, “and significant forensic work. The evidence gathered to date demonstrates that the male and the female both succumbed to injuries caused by shots fired from police.”
The IIO asks any witnesses who have not yet spoken with its investigators to call the IIO BC witness line at 1-855-446-8477.
So what’s next?
“We collected quite a bit of forensic information and a lot of ballistic information so we’re waiting in particular for reports back from that evidence seized and that we know at this point in time looks like it’s going to be at least another few months before we’re in possession of any reports,” MacDonald told the Now-Leader. “That’ll be important for us to try to understand what occurred here. We have some more interviews to do, some follow-up interviews to do, and we may have more, obviously, as we go forward. At this point we have gathered most if not all of the objective forensic evidence and it’s really a matter of waiting for its analysis and then, based on that, what other investigative steps we might want to consider.”
MacDonald told reporters at the scene on March 29 that police were called to the house at about 9:30 p.m. March 28 on a complaint of a hostage taking “and the presence of a firearm.”
“Eventually they received a warrant to enter the dwelling,” he said, and at about 7:30 a.m., the Emergency Response Team entered. “There was an interaction between the police” and a man in the home, he said. “Shots were fired.”
Asked, at the time, if it was the Surrey RCMP or ERT who fired the shots, MacDonald replied, “I understand at this point it was members of the emergency response team. I do expect that at least many of those were RCMP officers but I’m not certain that they are, we do have many integrated teams out this way.”
Asked Thursday, one month later, if the officer or officers that are the subject of the IIO investigation are with the Surrey RCMP detachment, MacDonald told the Now-Leader that “at this point I don’t want to get into the details of that because that type of information can tend to identifying individuals and as you know we don’t like to release information that can tend to identify individuals. The ERT team involved is made up of people from a variety of jurisdictions.”
Asked if the ERT officers involved are receiving counselling, MacDonald said “that’s a very good question to ask the RCMP.
“I expect that is the case,” he said. “We don’t stand in the way of any efforts at counselling for members in any circumstance of serious harm or death.”