Faced with delays from B.C.’s police watchdog, the parents of a young entrepreneur who died after a puzzling fight with the Vancouver Police one year ago are taking matters into their own hands to find out more about what happened to their son.

A family property on the Sunshine Coast will be the site of a vigil and memorial this Saturday for Myles Gray, with relatives hoisting banners on either side of the highway to raise awareness about the case – and to ask for more clues.

“It’s so traumatizing. Life will never be the same,” his mom, Margie Gray, said through tears. “We should know the truth.”

His parents remember Gray as a young man who loved mountain biking and the outdoors. He ran a business, Selma Park Evergreens, distributing wholesale floral greenery and employed as many as 19 people.

“He collected sports memorabilia, liked friends, and loved making people laugh,” she said.

His parents say the 33-year-old had never been in trouble with the law before. His only record in B.C.’s court file is a disputed unpaid transit ticket. 

On August 13, 2015, Gray headed to Vancouver on a delivery run of salal and other greens. He parked his white van in a customer’s driveway around 12:30 p.m., left the keys in the ignition and his wallet on the seat, and went for a walk.

One witness last year told CTV News he got into an argument with a woman who was watering her lawn despite the restrictions during the drought.

“The mom was pushed while she was watering the garden,” said that witness at the time, adding that neighbours called 911.

That was about 2:30 p.m. Police have said the first officer who arrived tried to detain him, and Gray became agitated.

At least six officers arrived as backup. They used pepper spray, and some kind of fight began. Four officers suffered minor injuries, two were injured seriously – one still off work with a concussion, according to the VPD.

And Gray was dead.

Meanwhile his parents heard from the customer asking them to move the car from the driveway.

“We got a phone call at 2:00 p.m. saying Myles’s van hasn’t moved. It was like being kicked in the gut. I knew immediately something was wrong,” Margie Gray said.

She called 9-1-1 to ask police to look for him. Officers responded right away, which she thought was unusual. But soon they got the news, delivered swiftly by a police officer. 

“You think they’re looking for your son, and then they tell you he’s dead? No one should have to hear that about their son,” said Mark Gray.

He said he identified his son by the dog tags that he was wearing, that were covered in dirt and blood. Mark Gray has worn them since, “for his son,” he said.

The Grays have sued the VPD. They say they are still waiting for basic information like the cause of his death from the agencies involved. And they feel a potential homicide by a group of people who weren’t police officers would have been resolved more quickly.

“If this was a group of individuals who weren’t police officers who have an altercation with someone who died, they would have been arrested, taken into custody, their clothes would have been seized, asked a whole bunch of questions, and this whole investigation would have concluded a long time ago,” said the Grays’ lawyer, Ian Donaldson.

The Independent Investigations Office is acknowledging that it’s not getting through cases fast enough. 

“Our timeliness is suffering,” said IIO spokesperson Marten Yousseff.

The staff of roughly 50 in the four-year-old organization have been inundated with some 350 reports a year of serious injury or death of someone who is in custody.

Some of those files are plagued with delays. The agency has 55 open files right now, with 17 files like Gray’s lasting a year or more; one file has lasted two years.

The IIO says it’s a combination of staff turnover as the four-year-old organization finds its footing, and delays in getting forensic reports from third parties. 

Meanwhile, the IIO hasn’t given up on Gray’s file. Earlier this week investigators asked the public for help finding drivers who may have seen or talked to Gray around 3:30 p.m. at Marine Drive and Joffre Avenue to call them.

“We just acquired this recently and we are asking anyone who passed through that intersection to contact the IIO,” Youssef said.

Gray’s parents have already done some investigating themselves, piecing together his last few days alive.

Only a few days before the incident, Mark Gray says the last thing Gray said to him was, “Dad, I’m so happy. I’ve never been so happy in my life.”

Margie Gray read the e-mails he sent that morning, planning his day to deliver floral greenery. Nothing seemed amiss.

At one point, he e-mailed a friend to say, “Where are you? Did the zombies get you?” Margie Gray said she doesn’t know if that’s an inside joke or not – Myles isn’t around to ask.

The timeline released by the IIO – that between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Gray was talking to drivers – has changed their understanding of the case.

“I worry that he was scared. That he was calling for help,” Margie Gray said.

This Saturday, their property west of Sechelt will host friends and family, and posters will go up looking for help, she said.

The family has posted a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/rr2g5yb8) as well to raise money for legal fees.