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Saanich police cleared in death of man who accidentally shot himself with crossbow

Decision to deploy gas into home cannot be said to have been unreasonable in the circumstances, Independent Investigations Office says
The Independent Investigations Office concluded that the Saanich officers acted lawfully. FILE PHOTO

Saanich police acted lawfully during an incident in which a man died from a crossbow wound after officers responded at the request of a landlord serving an eviction notice, the Independent Investigations Office has concluded.

A tenant inside the house on Easter Road on Feb. 21 claimed to be armed and holding a hostage. He failed to comply when told to come out so the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team and a crisis team were called to assist, said an IIO report released Thursday.

The incident began about 5 p.m., with police entering the home about 11:30 p.m. after a standoff and finding the man unresponsive.

He had accidentally shot himself with a crossbow and died soon after.

The IIO is an independent civilian-oversight agency that investigates police-related incidents resulting in serious harm or death. Its report said the man initially came out of the residence in the presence of the landlord and two police officers while the notice was being served with what looked like an assault-style rifle, but was later found to be an air gun.

The man said: “How about we trespass with this?”

Believing the man’s firearm was real, an officer sought cover behind a tree and pulled out his own firearm while another shouted for the tenant to drop the weapon. The man ignored the command and went back inside.

A neighbour from across the street told investigators the tone was “casual” at first, but escalated quickly.

The man came out again about 5:55 p.m. and shot toward a police car, then went inside before firing from a window at other police vehicles.

The two vehicles that were hit had each had broken windows and up to 40 pellet holes.

The Emergency Response Team assumed control of the incident at 6:40 p.m.

One officer said the man would come to the window and yell “nonsensical statements” and talk about conspiracies during the standoff.

Background checks conducted by an officer found that the man had twice had weapons seized by police, and that they had been returned. The checks also found that he had five rifles, a shotgun, a crossbow, a pellet gun and ammunition.

“[He] had a series of previous encounters with police due to his mental health,” the report said.

During the evening, a “less-lethal” round from an ARWEN (an acronym for Anti-Riot Weapon ENfield) was used. ARWENs fire rounds made from such material as foam or wood.

Tear gas was used about 11:20 p.m. About 10 minutes later, the man called 911 and said he had accidentally shot himself in the chest with a crossbow after being “pepper-sprayed.”

He was encouraged by an officer to come to the door and collapsed as he did so.

Paramedics and the fire department had been stationed nearby and provided quick medical care, but the man was pronounced dead on the front lawn.

“It cannot be said that the decision to deploy gas into the residence was unreasonable in the circumstances,” the report said.

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