The B.C. Court of Appeal has ordered a new civil trial for a Saanich police officer who was found negligent in a civil suit filed by the family of a 33-year-old mentally ill man shot dead after a confrontation.
Appeal Court Justice Richard Low said in the ruling posted online Thursday a new trial should be held for Const. Kristopher Dukeshire and the District of Saanich because the trial judge ignored important evidence.
Dukeshire shot Majencio Camaso in the parking lot of an elementary school on July 11, 2004, when the father and husband, who was off his medication, charged the constable with a metal pipe.
Camaso’s widow and daughter sued the constable, municipality and several others. In April 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court found Dukeshire and the District of Saanich negligent, awarding damages of about $235,000.
But among the mistakes listed on multiple pages in the Appeal Court ruling was the trial judge’s decision to exclude evidence presented by police experts “from almost all the analysis leading to his findings of negligence,” Low said.
He said the trial judge did not adequately consider the constable’s conduct during a chase before the shooting, noting the constable had a duty to apprehend Camaso under the Mental Health Act, although he was required to do so with “reasonable care.”
According to Low’s ruling, the incident began in Camaso’s apartment on the morning of his death when he noticed a red balloon taped to the wall and told his wife it was a “high-tech watching device” and then destroyed a television, computer and light fixtures with a rolling pin.
The police were called and warned that Camaso was off his medication.
By the time officers arrived, there had been a fire in the apartment and there was a strong smell of gasoline outside. Camaso fled the apartment in a car with the police in pursuit.
At the school, Camaso opened his vehicle’s trunk, reached inside and emerged with a long, thin object.
Dukeshire drew his firearm and ordered Camaso to drop the item and get on the ground.
Low found Camaso complied. But when Dukeshire walked toward him, Camaso got up, reached into the trunk and emerged holding a “crowbar, a metal pipe or both” and ran at the officer.
Low said Dukeshire backed up quickly and fired three shots, striking Camaso twice.
He was pronounced dead in hospital.
Low found no evidence was presented supporting rulings that Dukeshire should have waited for backup or co-ordinated with other constables.
The trial judge ignored evidence when he concluded the constable drew his firearm too soon and contradicted a police sergeant when he ruled Dukeshire failed to holster the weapon, Low said.
When the trial judge ruled Dukeshire should have fired a warning shot, he didn’t consider if Dukeshire had time or how the action would have deterred Camaso, said Low.
No date has been set for a new trial, which Low says will be limited to negligence claims.
© Copyright 2013