Police watchdog investigates deadly takedown inside Whistler restaurant
WHISTLER, B.C. -- Warning: This story contains an image that some readers might find disturbing.
Neil Wheatley was walking to breakfast Sunday morning in Whistler Village when he heard someone yelling.
"He was quite irate, shouting and screaming things," he explained.
The commotion came from the Stonesedge Kitchen at about 11 a.m. where James Woodworth was witnessing the incident unfold.
"Police tried to do their best to convince him to lay down," he said. Woodworth shot video showing part of the interaction. In it you can hear Mounties saying, "lay down" and "I don’t want to Tase you." They also call him Jason.
A friend of the victim identified him as Jason Koehler, the owner of the "2 Guys with Pipes" store in Whistler Village. That friend, who asked not to be identified, said Koehler has had run-ins with RCMP in the past and suffers from mental illness.
"The fact of any potential mental illness will play a role," explained Ron MacDonald, chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office. The IIO is looking into the incident as it does any time there’s been an injury or death to a member of the public as a result of police action. "During that struggle, a variety of different types of force options were used, including a Taser and batons," he explained.
Woodworth said officers deployed a Taser three times and, "the Taserings, that wasn’t actually the end of it." He described police using batons saying there were "blows to the chest," abdomen, and possibly the face.
"We are not certain what caused the death. While a Taser was involved in the incident, we don’t know if that played a role in the death of the deceased," said MacDonald. "We know in general Tasers are very safe, so we will have to wait and see."
The Stonesedge Kitchen was closed Monday, as was the store Koehler owned. Outside, a small memorial is growing, as flowers are being dropped off at the front door. Rest in peace posts are appearing on Facebook.
"It is with extreme sadness and heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Uncle Jay!" one woman wrote. "Jason Koehler left us unexpectedly today and we hope that the has finally found peace. We love you Jay!"
During the altercation, three officers received minor injuries. They were treated in hospital and released.
The IIO is asking anyone who witnessed the incident to contact them.