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Public hearing set in death of woman shot by Victoria police with 'less lethal' weapon

Lisa Rauch, 43, was shot in the back of the head three times on Christmas Day 2019 by an officer using an ARWEN weapon that’s intended to be fired at the body of a person.
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Lisa Rauch died in December 2019 after police shot her in the back of the head three times with ‘less lethal’ plastic projectiles. FAMILY PHOTO

A public hearing will be held in April into the death of a Victoria woman who was fatally injured by “less lethal” projectiles fired by police in 2019.

The Office of the Police ­Complaint Commissioner ordered the hearing last October, after previous investigations found no misconduct on the part of the Victoria police officer who fired the plastic projectiles that resulted in the death of Lisa Rauch, 43.

Rauch was shot in the back of the head three times on Christmas Day 2019 by officer Ron Kirkwood, who used an ARWEN weapon designed to incapacitate a person with a relatively low level of injury.

Rauch had barricaded herself in a unit of a supportive housing facility on Pandora Avenue that was on fire, prompting the call to police.

The weapon is intended to be fired at the body of a person, not the head, according to the ­province’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, which in 2020 cleared Kirkwood of wrongdoing in Rauch’s death because smoke from the fire obscured officers’ vision.

The Christmas Day shooting caused massive bleeding in Rauch’s brain and she died four days later after being removed from life support.

In the Office of the Police ­Complaint Commissioner hearing, ­Kirkwood faces allegations of abuse of authority and neglect of duty. Rauch’s family lodged a complaint with the OPPC in November 2020, one month after the IIO cleared the officer in the case, which led to an investigation by a professional standards external investigator with the Vancouver Police Department and a finding in 2022 that allegations of misconduct were unsubstantiated.

Police complaint commissioner Clayton Pecknold appointed a retired judge to review the matter after deciding there was a reasonable basis to believe the Vancouver Police Department decision was incorrect.

The retired judge, Elizabeth Arnold-Bailey, initially said one allegation related to a lack of notes made by Kirkwood, contrary to Victoria police policies, appeared to be substantiated, but upon considering further evidence, she agreed with the earlier finding.

Pecknold said in the notice of public hearing issued in October that he granted the request because a hearing is in the public interest and it’s possible Arnold-Bailey incorrectly applied the law in her decision.

“The circumstances surrounding [Lisa Rauch’s] death require a full accounting,” added Pecknold. “I agree with the complainants that the circumstances related to police officers’ accounting for their actions in police-involved deaths must bear public scrutiny.”

The public hearing is scheduled for April 15 at 947 Fort St., though a time has not yet been set.

dkloster@timescolonist.com