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'Tough to see': Footage of moments before and after fatal police shooting played for public hearing

Lisa Rauch’s family is seeking answers as to why officers went in with the mission of arresting her and ended up killing her: “They could have gone in there with shields and taken her out without shooting the stupid gun.”
Lisa Rauch died in December 2019 after being shot three times by a police officer using an ARWEN “less lethal” weapon. FAMILY PHOTO

Family members of a woman killed by a Victoria police officer wiped away tears during the second day of a public hearing into her death as they watched video of first responders performing first aid on her limp body.

CCTV footage played for the public hearing showed the hallway of the supportive housing facility on Pandora Avenue where Lisa Rauch was shot by VicPD officer Ron Kirkwood on Christmas Day 2019. The 43-year-old was hit three times in the back of the head with plastic projectiles from an ARWEN, a “less lethal” weapon designed to cause pain and incapacitate a person.

­Kirkwood faces allegations of abuse of authority related to the use of force and neglect of duty in connection with his lack of documentation of the incident.

Rauch’s family requested the public hearing after investigations by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. and the Vancouver Police Department on behalf of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner cleared Kirkwood of wrongdoing in relation to Rauch’s death. A retired judge who reviewed the VPD decision agreed with the department’s finding.

Police complaint commissioner Clayton Pecknold ordered a public hearing at the family’s request, saying the circumstances around Rauch’s death must “bear public scrutiny.”

The family is seeking answers as to why officers went in with the mission of safely arresting Rauch and ended up killing her.

“They could have gone in there with shields and taken her out without shooting the stupid gun,” said her father, Ron Rauch.

The shooting caused massive bleeding in Lisa Rauch’s brain. She died four days later after being removed from life support.

Rauch’s parents, sister and daughter watched for the first time footage captured of Rauch in the hours before her death.

“It was really tough to see,” her father said. “The rest of the family is taking it really hard.”

The CCTV video shows Rauch arriving in the hallway around 1:36 p.m. She kicks the door of unit 311, where Sylvia Dick lived, then tries the handle of another door, before Dick pokes her head out and Rauch enters the unit. The footage does not show inside the suite.

Rauch and Dick, who testified Tuesday at the public hearing, come and go from the unit separately several times over the next three hours, as does as a man identified as Dave.

Dick testified they were drinking and taking crystal methamphetamine in the unit. Rauch seemed on edge and appeared to be in a state of psychosis, she told the public hearing.

“Her head started to swirl around. She wasn’t herself,” Dick said.

Dick eventually left the unit and tried to get the attention of building staff by motioning at the security camera in the hallway, she said. When she and Dave returned to her unit, Rauch answered the door with a knife, Dick said.

“She said she was going to kill us, but I don’t think she meant it,” Dick testified.

Dick told staff in the housing facility that Rauch was in her unit with a knife and had locked the door, prompting a call to police.

In the video, several officers can be seen arriving in the hallway. According to the video’s timestamp, it was just before 4:50 p.m. Officers tied the door handle of unit 311 to another handle as a way to contain Rauch and give themselves time to react if she exited. They spent the next hour knocking on doors to evacuate the floor.

Cam Stephens, a VicPD officer and member of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team, was one of about a dozen officers in the hallway that evening. At some point a fire alarm went off inside the unit, Stephens told the hearing on Tuesday.

The fire alarm shut itself off after about 10 minutes, but a fire alarm for the entire building went off at 6:14 p.m. and black smoke was seen coming out of the unit window by an officer outside.

The fire caused officers to shift their approach. They had been trying to contain Rauch and persuade her to come out of the unit on her own. Instead, they decided to open the door, with firefighters behind officers to try to put out the fire, Stephens said.

When they opened the door, officers were met with heavy black smoke and could only see about three feet into the unit, he said. The light of their flashlights was reflected by the smoke, he said.

Officers could hear incomprehensible yelling and screaming inside the unit over the sound of the fire alarm, but couldn’t tell where it was coming from, Stephens said.

Officers began to put on gas masks because of the fire, and officers wearing masks took the place of those without so they could don masks. Stephens, who had been armed with the ARWEN, was replaced by Kirkwood, who took the ARWEN.

Before Stephens could return to the team, he heard three ARWEN rounds go off, he testified.

Stephens then went into the room with three other officers and carried an unresponsive Rauch down the hallway and into the elevator. She was handcuffed because officers weren’t sure whether she was pretending to be unresponsive, Stephens said.

Rauch’s family members wept quietly as CCTV footage showed officers carrying her into a courtyard, where first responders performed first aid for several minutes.

Bradley Hickford, counsel for the public hearing, also showed photos of the unit, including images of three green projectiles from the ARWEN on the floor, and a hair straightener on a burned couch. About half of the arm of the couch and a small part of the seat cushion was blackened and destroyed by fire.

Stephens will continue his testimony Wednesday. Audio of the event recorded by devices worn by the officers is also expected to be played Wednesday.

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