Officers cleared in shooting death of homeless man
Published Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:33PM PST
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 9:30PM PDT
No criminal charges should be laid against two Vancouver police officers in the shooting death of a homeless man in March, an investigation has concluded.
Michael Vann Hubbard, 58, was shot and killed March 20 in downtown Vancouver.
His family alleged that officers used excessive force and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Vancouver police.
But a report into the incident released Tuesday by Abbotsford police Insp. Len Goerke said the two officers feared for their lives when Hubbard advanced toward them with a knife.
The two officers were investigating the theft of a black knapsack from a van on Granville Street. They saw a man, Hubbard, who appeared to be rummaging through a black knapsack on Homer Street.
When they asked to see the knapsack, Hubbard became agitated and pulled out a utility knife with the blade extended, Goerke wrote.
Hubbard began swearing and screaming at the officers. Witnesses reported that Hubbard told the officers to shoot him.
The officers drew their weapons and started backing up while repeatedly directing Hubbard to drop the knife, but he refused, Goerke wrote.
One shot was fired from a distance of about three metres.
"After considering the totality of the circumstances facing the two police officers, notwithstanding that there was a tragic outcome, the officers were justified in using force that was intended or likely to cause grievous bodily harm or death," Goerke wrote.
In Pictures: Fatal police shooting
Vancouver chief response
In a statement Tuesday, Vancouver police Chief Constable Jim Chu offered his "deep regrets" to the Hubbard family for their loss, but said that the officer who fired her weapon "acted in the defence of her own life and the safety of the public."
Chu also took aim at a witness, Adam Smolcic, who claimed after the incident that an officer obstructed justice by deleting cell phone video of the incident.
That claim turned out to be false, and Abbotsford police have recommended charging Smolcic with public mischief.
Chu criticized some media outlets who repeated the allegations "without critical analysis."
"It is unlikely that they or Mr. Smolcic considered the toll his comments would take on the relationship of trust between the VPD and our homeless, or how it would worsen the pain and confusion for the Hubbard family," Chu said.
Hubbard's family remains critical of the Vancouver police.
In addition to the wrongful death suit, Hubbard's family has also filed a complaint against Chu for an internal memo he wrote after the incident saying that the shooting was justified. The family says the memo biased the investigation from the start.
Representatives of the Pivot Legal Society told reporters Tuesday that Vancouver police need better training to deal with people with mental illness and need to learn how to de-escalate situations.
The Abbotsford police report says Hubbard suffered from chronic schizophrenia.
"If they're always meeting force with force we're going to continue seeing deaths of mentally ill people," said John Richardson, executive director of the society.
It turns out that the backpack in Hubbard's possession that day was not the one stolen from the van.
With files from CTV British Columbia's Leah Hendry