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RCMP officers cleared in killing of Abbotsford homeless advocate

Barry Shantz was shot following a mental health crisis at his home on on Jan. 13, 2020,
Barry Shantz in 2015 in front of a homeless camp at Gladys Avenue and Cyril Street. Abbotsford News file photo.

Lytton RCMP officers who shot and killed a well-known Abbotsford homeless advocate will not be charged with any offence, said B.C.’s police watchdog in a report on Tuesday (Oct. 19).

On the morning of Jan. 13, 2020 Barry Shantz was shot on his front porch in Lytton, B.C., following a six-hour standoff with police after his partner had called for help that morning.

Shantz was reportedly suicidal, and walked out of his house holding a shotgun after he told officers over the phone that he wanted to be shot.

RELATED: Abbotsford homeless advocate killed by RCMP in Lytton

The Independent Investigations Office’s (IIO) report found that RCMP officers had reasonable grounds in using lethal force, and Shantz had fired a single shot over the heads of the first two arriving officers from his home.

An Emergency Response Team was called shortly afterwards, the report said.

The IIO spoke to seven civilian witnesses and 11 police officers in its investigation and reviewed recordings of 911 calls, police radio transmissions, records, training records and policies, along with autopsy and toxicology reports.

Civilian witnesses said Shantz’s “health and his behaviour were deteriorating noticeably.”

Shantz’s partner and her daughter told the IIO they locked themselves in the basement around 7:45 a.m. that day and called 911, telling the dispatcher the he had “kinda lost his mind and he’s got a gun… I wanna (sic) cop here.” They went on to say they heard him “playing with the gun in the bedroom.”

When the dispatcher asked if the distressed man was a danger to others, one of them said “he’s never hurt a soul… he’s just losing it up there and I’m scared right now.”

Crisis negotiators and his family members had tried to talk to Shantz down from his barricaded house, but were unsuccessful, according to the report.

RCMP tried to get assistance from a trained mental health professional, but none was available in the short time frame, said the IIO’s chief civilian director, Ron MacDonald, in a news conference on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, in the time available, that didn’t pan out.”

Shantz told a 911 operator he was going to exit the house at 2:06 p.m., and requested officers shoot him six times, the report said.

He was shot at 2:05 p.m., according to the report, and was holding the loaded shotgun with the safety off.

Paramedics attempting to save him were unsuccessful.

“There was nothing to suggest that [Shantz] was surrendering. It was not necessary to wait until he actually pointed the shotgun at someone or pulled the trigger — it would only have taken moments for him to do so,” read Tuesday’s report, explaining the IIO’s reasoning against recommending charges to the Crown.

“It was not necessary to wait until he actually pointed the shotgun at someone or pulled the trigger – it would only have taken moments for him to do so.”

Shantz was well-known advocate for Abbotsford’s homeless community and was a founding member of the B.C. Association of Drug War Survivors.

RELATED: Abbotsford homeless advocate killed by RCMP leaves behind complicated legacy

His advocacy spearheaded the change to city bylaws which restricted camping in public parks in 2015, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. He also led the charge in pressuring the city to allow harm-reduction services for drug users.

People close to Shantz said that serving a 15-year prison sentence in the U.S. for marijuana trafficking had left him traumatized and with severe PTSD. Shantz also suffered from other mental health issues, which he was open about.

He had moved from Abbotsford to Lytton several years ago.

– with files from Katya Slepian