The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) has cleared the Comox Valley RCMP of wrongdoing in an Oct. 5, 2022 incident where the driver of a stolen truck ended up rolling the vehicle, thereby suffering internal injuries.
The IIO investigates any incident that occurs in the province, in which someone has died or suffered serious physical harm and there appears to be a connection to the actions (or sometimes inaction) of police.
The Oct. 5 incident concluded along Crown Isle Boulevard, north of Costco, when the driver of the stolen vehicle chose to attempt ramming through a police blockade.
In his report, Ronald J. MacDonald, chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office, concluded the officers took every precaution to risks of injury to themselves, or the public, to a minimum.
The incident began at 12:45 p.m., when an RCMP officer located a green Dodge pickup that had been reported stolen earlier that day, parked in a Tim Hortons parking lot in Courtenay. In the driver’s seat was the affected person (AP), who raced away once he realized he had been spotted, ramming the police vehicle and disabling it, then reversing over a concrete divider.
The police investigation was stepped up, with increased resources including unmarked vehicles and aerial surveillance. AP was seen driving the stolen truck in apparently random directions and at high speed. At one point, he rammed two more police vehicles when they tried to block his path. Officers were careful to avoid pursuing so as not to provoke a dangerous chase, but continued surveillance.
The AP eventually found himself on a dead-end residential street. Two police cars blocked the end of the cul-de-sac, with a municipal garbage collection vehicle next to them, effectively blocking the entire street.
The AP sped toward the police vehicles, and swerved to the right, mounting the sidewalk in an attempt to smash through between the parked garbage truck and a fence bordering the residential property on the corner of the street. According to witness reports, the truck’s wheels hit a large rock, resulting in the truck flipping over onto the driver’s side. It slid forward into the intersection on its side and then rolled when it struck the opposite curb. It landed on its wheels in the front yard of a home. One of its wheels had been torn off.
The AP was removed from the truck and was arrested. He was then transported to hospital where he was found to have suffered internal injuries.
MacDonald concluded that while police actions were an indirect result of the injuries - the driver of the stolen car would not have been injured had a blockade not been set up to stop him - “the direct cause was AP’s decision to respond in the reckless manner he chose. That decision cannot be laid at the feet of police.”
MacDonald commended the police for the tactics used to keep risk of damage or injury to a minimum.
“Important factors to consider were: that the police did not pick a busy location for the tactic, which may have potentially put large numbers of bystanders at risk; that they did not place themselves in increased danger by getting out of their vehicles and facing the oncoming vehicle on foot; that they did not draw and point firearms, risking a lethal conclusion to the incident; and they did not use their vehicles as weapons by ramming.
“It is also worth noting that all involved officers evidently followed prudent procedures before this by not engaging in high-speed pursuits when AP failed to stop as directed. After all, this was a stolen vehicle case, and while AP needed to be arrested, it made sense not to increase the risk to the public, AP and the police by conducting such a pursuit.”