Kelowna officer failed to perform wellness check on gravely ill man who was found dead

Apartment door stymies cop

A Kelowna RCMP officer who was tasked with performing a wellness check on a gravely ill person gave up after trying to access his apartment building for two and a half minutes. The person was found dead an hour later.

In a report issued Thursday, the Independent Investigations Officer did not recommend criminal charges against the unnamed Kelowna officer, as the coroner determined the deceased person had likely died prior to the officer's failed wellness check on Jan. 10, 2024.

An out-of-province friend of the sick man had spoke to him on the phone on Jan. 9, and was concerned about his wellbeing. When the sick man didn't answer his phone the next day, the friend called police and asked for an officer to perform a wellness check.

Just after 10 a.m. on Jan. 10, dispatch told the officer the man was "extremely sick with laboured breathing” and had no family or contacts in Kelowna.

The officer arrived at the sick man's unspecified apartment building at 10:40 a.m. but he left less than two and a half minutes later after failing to gain access to the building. CCTV footage from the apartment showed the officer arriving at the building's front door, examining the directory and then leaving after about two minutes.

At 11:48 a.m. the same morning, the officer was once again dispatched to the same building, this time to assist paramedics with a death. The sick man the officer had been tasked with checking on had been found dead by a staff member at the building.

According to police records, the officer made no mention to the supervisor on scene that he had attended the building an hour earlier or that he had failed to complete the requested wellness check.

A BC Coroners Service report later indicated the man died from “natural causes” and he's believed to have died some time on Jan. 9.

Since the man had likely died prior to the officer's failed wellness check, the IIO said that the officer's inaction did not lead to the death and criminal charges are not warranted. But MacDonald was very critical of the officer's inaction, saying it “came at least very close to and quite likely crossed the criminal negligence threshold.”

“After the RCMP got a call to check on a very sick person, [the officer] almost immediately abandoned his investigation after being stopped by the building's front door. There were other options he could have pursued but he failed to take any, other than to call the complainant back to tell her to get someone else to do the job he had been tasked to do,” IIO chief civilian officer Ronald MacDonald said in his report.

“He could have attempted to rouse other occupants of the building, or contact the superintendent or property owner. Indeed, a forced entry in these circumstances would likely have been appropriate ... [the officer] did very little. His actions showed a poor regard for the potential that AP was in a grave physical state.”

While no criminal charges were recommended, MacDonald said the officer's inaction “may well constitute a breach of RCMP policy and practice, which is a matter for their Professional Standards branch to address.”

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