Lytton officer cleared in summer drowning death

Body found 100 km away

An RCMP officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing after a man ran from a traffic stop in Lytton last August, and his body was found six days later in the Fraser River near Hope, 100 kilometres away.

The Independent Investigation Office is the civilian watchdog of police in B.C., and the organization investigates any police-involved incidents where a person is seriously injured of killed.

On the evening of Aug. 12, 2020, an officer pulled over a speeding driver on the Trans-Canada Highway near Lytton, and the officer quickly suspected the driver was impaired.

Before he was pulled over, the driver phoned his friend and the friend recorded their 13-minute call. Some of that recording was used as evidence in the IIO investigation. The officer told the driver he was being detained, and the driver ran from the scene.

“My male driver just took off on me and went down into the bushes, can you send my back up please?” the officer said on his radio.

But because it was night time, the officer was alone, and the driver had fled down a hazardous steep embankment, the officer chose not to pursue the man, and instead called for a tow truck. The officer said he assumed the man would go to his home, as he knew the man lived nearby.

But the next day, the driver was missing, and an extensive search in the area produced nothing. Six days after the traffic stop, the driver's body was found in the Fraser River near Hope, close to 100 kilometres south of Lytton. He had died by drowning.

Despite the IIO's efforts to find out where and when the man had first entered the river, they were unable to determine if the man had drowned shortly after the traffic stop.

Ultimately, the IIO determined the officer's actions, or inaction, was not the cause of the man's death.

“Although in hindsight it could be questioned whether an earlier search by [the officer] may have discovered [the driver] before he drowned, this case must be based on what the officer knew at the time, and what actions the officer took at that point,” the IIO report states.

“It was not safe for the officer to chase [the driver] down a steep bank on a dark night with no other officers as backup. In addition, there did not appear to be an urgency to find [the driver] at that time, as there were no grounds to believe [the driver] would harm himself or others.”

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