VPD defends violent arrest of suspect outside homicide scene in West End
The chaotic arrest of a homicide suspect in Vancouver’s West End has prompted police to recommend charges – as witnesses raise questions about the officers' use of force.
The scene unfolded Wednesday night outside a group home on Pendrell Street, where the victim was found fatally wounded the previous evening. Smartphone video obtained by CTV News shows an officer speaking to the suspect, who is hidden from view behind a forensics van, while others stand nearby with their weapons drawn.
The officer tells the suspect several times he’s there to help and urges him to take his hands out of his pockets. Shots can then be heard as the other members suddenly spring into action, with a police dog and uniformed officers swarming around a figure on the ground.
“A police dog was deployed as well as a beanbag shot gun," said Sgt. Aaron Roed. “Officers were investigating the initial suspicious death [from Tuesday night] at 1125 Pendrell. The suspect male attempted to go back to the residence and he was identified by officers.”
The victim, 29 year-old Kyle Vincent Gabriel was found at the Watson House group home suffering serious injuries on Tuesday, and later died in hospital. Vancouver police say both Gabriel and his 23-year-old alleged attacker were residents of the house, which is operated by Coast Mental Health.
“We don’t have all the details,” said spokesperson Susan Hancock, who told CTV News the organization runs the facility on behalf of Vancouver Coastal Health.
She said all the residents of the home, which is geared towards young adults with serious mental illnesses, were taken to live at other facilities for the time being as the house was considered a crime scene. The organization’s 11 group homes “provide 24-hour staffing in a home-like atmosphere for people unable to live independently,” according to its website.
Despite concerns raised in the video by onlookers questioning how long the service dog was needed and if any shots were required at all, the Independent Investigations Office says it is not investigating. The threshold for their involvement is typically grievous bodily harm or death at the hands of a police officer. While the suspect was briefly hospitalized, he was released into police custody and is currently in jail.
“He did have a knife and was actively fighting with the officers when they were trying to take him into custody," said Sgt. Roed, who added that police are recommending charges of assaulting an officer and service animal against the unnamed suspect.
When asked whether it was possible for the suspect to be fighting with the officers when the clash unfolded in a matter of moments as seen in the witness videos, Roed said he hadn’t seen any of them and couldn’t comment.
Potential homicide charges in Gabriel’s death, the city’s 7th homicide, are anticipated at a later date.
A worker at a nearby church who watched the incident unfold was rattled by the noise and violence.
"It's very unsettling for families and for people who work at the church to see this happen in their neighbourhood," the worker said.