No offence committed in hostage shooting: B.C. police watchdog

SURREY, B.C. — British Columbia's police watchdog says there are no reasonable grounds to believe an officer may have committed an offence when a woman who was being held hostage in Surrey last year was shot by police and later died.

The Independent Investigations Office says the unnamed woman's death was the result of an accidental shooting, and there is no way to determine which officers fired the two bullets that struck her in the right side of the abdomen and the right elbow.

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The report by chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald says the use of lethal force in the death of the unidentified hostage taker was also justified.

The report says police were called to a home late at night on March 28, 2019, where the man was holding his partner hostage.

About nine hours later, the report says the operator of a police robot heard the man say he would kill the woman in one hour, which led police to enter the home after consulting a psychologist.

The officer who led police into a bedroom told civilian investigators with the oversight agency that the woman was lying on top of the man, who held a knife at her throat with one hand while waving a gun with his other hand.

MacDonald writes that police tried to de-escalate the hostage taking but they had to act when the threat to kill the woman was made.

If they didn't act, the woman "would almost certainly had lost her life in any event at the hands of" the hostage taker, says the report.

When police entered the room, "the first things they likely saw as they went through the door were a knife at the hostage's throat and what appeared to be a functioning firearm pointed in their general direction," it says.

MacDonald says police were trying to protect the lives of the woman and their colleagues and had "no more than split seconds to react to the immediate threat of a man with two weapons in his hands."

In a statement, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan said the watchdog report states that the woman "may have moved or been pushed as our officers fired their weapons."

Strachan offered her condolences to the woman's family and said RCMP officers have also been affected by the shooting.

"Since that time the officers involved have received support from the RCMP and their home police force, are doing well, and have returned to active duties," the statement says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2020.

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