RCMP officer who shot and killed Slocan, B.C. man testifies at inquest
A Mountie who shot and killed a Slocan man took the stand Friday at a coroner’s inquest.
On Oct. 9, 2014, officers were called to investigate an allegation of assault between Peter De Groot and a neighbour.
It’s alleged that at that time, De Groot exchanged gunfire with officers, prompting him to hide in the bush for four days.
On Oct. 13, 2014, Cpl. Brian Burke – a dog handler with the Emergency Response Team – and another corporal found a remote cabin with an open window. They were suspicious De Groot may have been hiding there.
On Friday, a lawyer challenged Burke to explain why backup wasn’t called.
Burke said there was no radio signal in the remote area. He added that he has dealt with similar situations in the past and that the decision not to call for backup was based on his experience.
He said when the officers opened the door, they saw De Groot on the floor holding a rifle.
“He was propped up on the floor,” Burke told the inquest.
“The term I would use is a prone sniper position.”
A lawyer for the De Groot family asked Burke whether he had committed any violence against De Groot, noting there was head trauma.
Burke said he did not assault De Groot.
The lawyer also asked why De Groot wasn’t put in a “recovery position” to help him breathe.
Burke said based on his training, that position was used for choking victims.
Another lawyer challenged Burke on why he didn’t perform first aid when the other officer found that De Groot had a pulse.
Burke maintained he thought De Groot was dead.
Lawyers also asked Burke whether the ERT’s goal was to kill De Groot.
Burke refuted that suggestion.
“The goal of ERT is to contain, it is to then utilize everything in your powers to successfully negotiate to a peaceful resolution,” he said. “Unfortunately, some cases don’t resolve peacefully.”
The Independent Investigations Office cleared Burke of any wrongdoing, but that didn’t happen until late March 2018, nearly three-and-half years after the incident.
Burke filed a lawsuit, alleging the length of the probe exacerbated his post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition he was first diagnosed with in 2010 but had been able to manage with treatment.
The purpose of the coroner’s inquest is not to assign blame or guilt but to provide recommendations to prevent a similar death from happening.
The inquest is scheduled to run until Oct. 8.