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Family struggles to understand son’s death

Myles Gray

Margie and Mark Gray are struggling to understand what happened to their son, 33-year-old Myles Gray of Sechelt, who was reportedly in an altercation with several Vancouver police officers in Burnaby on Aug. 13 that ended in Myles’ death.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Margie “He had no weapons. He’s not a violent person. He has no criminal record. He was working, he wasn’t on drugs. He doesn’t drink alcohol.”

Exactly what happened is being investigated by the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO).

Before turning the case over to the IIO, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) reported that at about 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 13, several officers responded to a call “of a distraught man causing a disturbance in the 3600 block of South East Marine Drive.”

“Attempts to subdue the man with chemical agents were unsuccessful. A physical altercation ensued, resulting in injuries to the man and six officers,” a press release from the VPD said, adding that “paramedics were called to attend to the man; he died at the scene.”

The Gray family has been given few further facts while the IIO investigates what happened, but the Grays say they do know that there were 10 officers on scene and that the incident took place in a wooded area, away from the public. 

VPD reported that after the altercation six police officers were taken to hospital, two with “significant injuries,” and later that day all were released.

All of the officers involved remain on their regular patrol duties.

Myles’ sister, Melissa Gray, said her brother was a “gentle soul” and that although he was a bodybuilder, reports of him causing a disturbance didn’t fit his character.

The family described Myles as positive, compassionate, funny and easygoing, noting that “all of the cousins looked up to him” and that “everybody liked him.”

He had purchased Selma Park Evergreens from his uncle six years earlier and on the day of the fatal incident he was following his regular Thursday routine, taking greenery into the city to distribute to his wholesalers.

Margie and Mark, who have a home in Vancouver, discovered something was wrong that day when they got a call from one of the floral distributors who said Myles’ vehicle was still parked in the business’s parking lot.

“By that time it was 4 p.m. and something just triggered in me,” Margie said. “This was out of character. He just wouldn’t not come back to his vehicle when it’s full of product.”

After walking around the area looking for Myles for some time, Mark said, the couple realized they should phone the police. Soon several police officers and IIO officials showed up.

“Somebody came up to me and told me that ‘your son is dead.’ Just bang, like that. I can’t remember if it was either one of the IIO people or the police, I can’t remember, but they just came up and said that and I just couldn’t believe it. It’s like a nightmare,” Mark said.

“They wouldn’t even let us see our son because it’s a forensic autopsy,” Margie added.

The Grays weren’t given any more information about what happened to Myles, as they were told the case was under investigation.

“Because they don’t want anything leaked, which means it leaves us in the dark for a very, very long time,” Margie said.

It’s unclear how long it will take the IIO to complete its investigation.

“It’s very difficult to put a timeline on our cases,” said Marten Youssef, IIO manager of strategic communications.

“We currently continue to work on cases that occurred last year – our timeliness is impacted by our dependence on third-party reports: i.e., autopsy, toxicology, use of force, which are outside of our control.”

The IIO is mandated with conducting investigations into all police-related incidents of death or serious harm.

Once the investigation is complete, the IIO may report the matter to Crown counsel or release a public report explaining why the matter doesn’t warrant further action.

“Our investigators are working diligently to try and answer the question of what exactly happened,” Youssef said.

Margie said she’s thankful an IIO investigation has been started, but she’s concerned about the outcome.

“I fear that the police are going to say ‘justifiable’ and no death is justifiable, unless their lives are in danger. But I doubt very much that with a water bottle in [Myles’] hand, their lives were in danger,” Margie said.

In anticipation of a possible court case in the future, Myles’ aunt, Shelley Reed, said the family plans to start a “Justice for Myles gofundme page” to help with lawyers’ fees and “for publicity’s sake, to keep it in the public’s eye.”

“I just want to make it known that Myles could be anybody’s son,” Margie said. “If it happened to him, if it happened to us, it could happen to anybody. This was just somebody going about their daily routine and we don’t know what transpired.

“It doesn’t make sense and we have no answers. Everybody keeps thinking that we do and we’re withholding something, but honestly – we don’t know anything.”

A funeral is planned for Myles this Saturday, Aug. 29 at noon at the Holy Family Catholic Church (5700 Nickerson Road) and the community is welcome to attend. A reception will follow in the church hall.