An independent investigation has found a Kelowna RCMP female officer should not face charges after shooting a homeless man in August 2017.
An investigation of the incident by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. found the police officer acted in an appropriate measure when she and a City of Kelowna worker were confronted by an angry man advancing toward them waving a large axe handle in a threatening manner.
“I do not consider that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges,” stated the report, co-submitted by IIO chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald and general counsel Clinton Sadlemyer.
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The investigation focused on conflicting accounts of how the shooting unfolded based on interviews with the individual shot in the shoulder, a serious but non-life threatening wound, and both the police officer and city worker.
On Aug. 3, 2017, beginning at about 12:55 p.m., the police officer and city worker responded to a complaint of an unauthorized homeless camp near Duck Lake Road, finding a tent or tarp lined up against a large tree near a steep embankment.
As the neared the tent, they were approached by an individual carrying an axe handle. Ignoring repeated requests by the police officer to drop the axe handle over about a 10-minute interaction, the police officer retreated until stopped by a wire fence.
The shooting victim claimed he was using the axe handle as a crutch after suffering a spider bite on the side of his knee earlier that morning which required medical treatment.
After one final warning and voiced concern from the city worker that the man “was getting …to goddamn close,” the officer fired a shot from a distance of about 5.5 metres.
The shooting victim had contested the officer used excessive force by shooting him, which could lead to charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault or assault causing bodily harm.
But the investigation found his account that he did not leave the area where his tent was pitched or advance on the police office were contradicted by two photographs taken by the city worker as the scene unfolded.
“The comments to (the shooting victim) by the police officer, as related by the (city worker), indicate the officer appropriately attempted to de-escalate the situation while at the same time protecting herself and the (city worker),” the report concluded.
“It was certainly reasonable for (the police officer) to conclude that this non-compliant and angry male with a significant weapon could easily cause her imminent grievous bodily harm.”