Inquest begins into RCMP shooting death of John Buehler
CTV News Vancouver
Published Monday, July 15, 2019 11:56AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, July 15, 2019 12:03PM PDT
A coroner's inquest is underway into the death of John Robert Buehler, who was shot by RCMP officers while squatting at a cabin near the B.C.-Alberta border almost five years ago.
Members of an Emergency Response Team opened fire on the 51-year-old and a woman back in Sept. 17, 2014, during a tense confrontation that unfolded on a remote forested property outside the small community of Valemount.
Buehler was killed and the woman, reported to be his daughter, was seriously injured.
Mounties had been staking out the cabin for days after the owner told them two people had broken in and were living there illegally with six German shepherds. Officers said they observed the pair armed with rifles.
The RCMP initially reported that a suspect on the property opened fire on police first, prompting a shootout that resulted in Buehler's death. Investigators from B.C.'s police watchdog later said they found no "evidence to suggest the exchange of gunfire took place."
But prosecutors, who declined to charge any of the ERT members involved, argued there were a number of factors that would have left the officers concerned their lives could be in jeopardy.
In a 2017 statement explaining the decision not to lay charges, the B.C. Prosecution Service alleged Buehler had briefly tried to evade police and then "turned towards the officers holding (a) rifle and raising it so that it was pointed directly at the officers in a manner such that it could be immediately discharged." He was killed after police shot him in the chest.
Prior to the confrontation, the BCPS said officers had received information that Buehler had a history of violence, was anti-authority and would not accept their attempts to enforce the law.
"He was described by a person who had personally interacted with him as a time bomb," the service said.
Months earlier, in June 2014, Buehler had been arrested after allegedly threatening to kill a woman and her daughter on a public trail. Prosecutors said police were called and seized a half dozen weapons, including two shotguns and three rifles, from Buehler's camper.
The public inquest into his death began Monday morning in the Prince George Courthouse, and is expected to last into next week.
Coroner's inquests are set up to determine the facts surrounding a death, and not to find fault. The jury can come back with recommendations aimed at preventing similar situations from happening the future, however.