Police watchdog clears transit officer in fatal shooting at Safeway
Naverone Christian Landon Woods is seen in a convenience store minutes before being shot to death by Transit Police officers in a nearby Safeway. Dec. 28, 2014. (CTV)
Published Monday, May 16, 2016 1:47PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, May 16, 2016 1:51PM PDT
B.C.’s police watchdog has completed its investigation into a fatal officer-involved shooting inside a Surrey grocery store, and will not be recommending charges.
Naverone Christian Landon Woods, a 23-year-old from the small Interior community of Hazelton, was shot by Transit Police at a Safeway near the Surrey Central SkyTrain Station the morning of Dec. 14, 2014.
The young man had been stabbing himself repeatedly in the torso before officers arrived, according to witnesses, and he died in hospital the same morning from a combination of gunshot and stab wounds.
On Monday, nearly 17 months after the deadly confrontation, the Independent Investigations Office announced it found no evidence of police wrongdoing.
“Regardless of the fact that the investigation leads to the conclusion that the involved officers did not commit any offence, the circumstances of the affected person’s death were tragic,” the IIO said in its report.
Witnesses, including employees of the Safeway, told the IIO the man had entered the store, taken off his shirt, grabbed a box of paring knives and pulled out two of the blades.
He said, “I didn’t do this. I never did this. I want to die,” before stabbing himself in the stomach, according to one account.
Two Transit Police officers arrived at the Safeway shortly after.
The IIO said police and witnesses both reported the officers repeatedly ordered the man to put down his weapons, but that he instead started advancing on them.
One officer said she fired one round, and when that failed to stop the man, she fired another.
“Since the male had not responded to any of my directions, since the male appeared to be very high on drugs or suffering from a severe episode of mental illness, and since the male was already almost within stabbing distance, I did not believe that any use of force short of a gunshot would be fast enough,” the unnamed officer said in a statement submitted to the IIO.
According to the IIO, the police at the scene were only armed with guns, batons, and pepper spray, and the latter two are “less than proportional” against an uplifted knife, which can be lethal.
“As such, the subject officer’s service pistol was a reasonable option,” the IIO said in its report.
Though police have been cleared by the IIO, the incident is still subject to a mandatory administrative investigation and review by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner.
The IIO said on question that remains unanswered is why neither of the officers had a less-lethal option – specifically a Taser – they could have drawn instead of their guns.
To read the full IIO report, click here.