Saanich police officers’ decision to shoot a man with plastic projectiles and unleash a police dog on him, leaving him seriously injured, was “close to the line,” says B.C.’s civilian-led police-oversight agency.
The Independent Investigations Office report said while police have a significant amount of latitude when deciding about using force, the May 2022 case “represents the very upper limit of that licence.”
“While I would not call that use of force commendable, neither can I call it criminal,” said Ron MacDonald, the IIO’s chief civilian director.
He said there are no reasonable grounds to conclude any officer had committed an offence.
The report said the injured man — who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome — was never actively resistant to police but was “doggedly non-compliant.”
Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism that can cause difficulty with social interaction.
MacDonald said police were not dealing with a vicious criminal in this case “but someone with behavioural challenges trying to deal with a tenancy dispute in his own home.”
The report said the situation unfolded when the man accompanied his mother as she went to serve an eviction notice to a tenant living in an upstairs suite at their two-level home.
When the tenant did not co-operate, the man used a hammer to repeatedly strike the suite’s door.
The tenant said he was frightened and called police. Officers arrived, and a standoff that lasted more than two hours ensued when the man refused to come down the steps at the front of the house.
The man said he eventually started to slowly come down the steps when he and the officers “came to an understanding,” but he acknowledged he did not raise his hands as directed. He also did not lie down on the ground when told to do so.
He said he was shocked when he was shot twice with plastic projectiles from a non-lethal weapon. The dog then came at him and bit him on the arm.
While the report noted that the man had acted with “significant violence” and would not tell officers where the hammer was, it said any fear that the man might produce the hammer and use it as a weapon against police was “somewhat fanciful.”
The hammer later turned up on the ground beside the steps.
Paramedics were called to tend to the man.