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Saanich police cleared of wrongdoing after man shot by officer, bitten by police dog

The scene of a police incident on Patricia Bay Highway on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Image credit: Michele/Twitter) The scene of a police incident on Patricia Bay Highway on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Image credit: Michele/Twitter)
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British Columbia's police oversight agency has cleared two Saanich police officers of wrongdoing after one officer shot an armed man and the other turned his police dog on him during a traffic stop last year.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. found no grounds for charges against the officers Wednesday after an 11-month investigation heard evidence from 13 police witnesses, three paramedics and the suspect involved.

The IIO says the officers pulled the man over on the side of Highway 17 (Patricia Bay Highway) on the night of April 28, 2023. The agency says an altercation between the police and the driver escalated until the man exited his SUV holding a handgun.

Evidence from the police indicates the man refused to exit his vehicle before he pulled out the pistol and pointed it at his own head, prompting the responding officers to back away from the SUV and take cover.

Police closed down the highway in both directions and removed passersby from their vehicles as a safety precaution, according to the IIO report.

One of the officers took up a position across the highway and fired a single rifle shot that wounded the man in the lower abdomen, knocking him to the ground, according to the IIO report.

Police witnesses told investigators the man was still moving on the ground and tried to get up while his pistol was still within reach. The police dog handler told the man to move away from the gun before he deployed his dog, which bit the man and dragged him away from the weapon, which was found to be unloaded, according to the report.

The man was treated for his injuries at the scene and transported to hospital, where he woke up three days later, he told investigators.

Suspect picked up alcohol, handgun

The suspect said he had been drinking alcohol at home earlier that evening and only had a partial memory of what transpired that day. He had been under court-ordered conditions that required him to wear an electronic monitor and abide by a curfew.

He told investigators he was in "a dark place" that day, according to the report. He had a medical appointment that evening, which required his probation officer to remove his monitor.

After the device was removed, he made his way home, stopping at a liquor store for a 750-millilitre bottle of vodka and at a friend's house to pick up a 9mm pistol.

"He said he could not remember whether or not he loaded the gun," the IIO report says. "He said he did remember sitting in his car in the driveway and putting the gun to his head."

The man was drinking at home and ignoring calls monitoring his curfew. He said he did not remember leaving the house or anything that happened afterwards until he awoke in the hospital with the gunshot wound and what the IIO described as "significant dog bite wounds." An empty vodka bottle was found in his SUV at the scene of the traffic stop.

"While there was no way to know what (the man) intended when he exited his vehicle and walked towards police with a pistol in his hand, disobeying their commands, it was not unreasonable for (the officer who shot him) to consider those actions as posing an immediate and critical threat to officers and to deploy lethal force in their defence," Ronald MacDonald, the IIO's chief civilian director, concluded in the report.

The use of the police dog "was also appropriate in the circumstances," MacDonald added, noting that officers could not have known the man's gun was not loaded.

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