“So it had to come to this.” That was MLA Nicholas Simons’ reaction Wednesday to news that the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) was asking the B.C. Supreme Court to order a Vancouver police officer to cooperate in the IIO’s investigation into the beating death of Myles Gray.
It was two years and two months ago today that the 33-year-old Sechelt businessman died after a lethal encounter with seven – or eight, by some accounts – Vancouver police officers in a wooded backyard in Burnaby. Police had initially responded to a complaint that a man had been harassing a resident on South East Marine Drive about her water use; it was during the summer drought of 2015. Gray, who was in the city on business, was unarmed and sober. There were no witnesses to the fatal beating.
As we reported in April, the IIO has laid the blame for the stalled investigation on the refusal of some officers who were present during the incident to provide statements. The court petition filed Tuesday says a witness officer has refused investigators’ requests for a second interview. “The officer, through her legal counsel, is imposing conditions on the IIO prior to a second interview,” the IIO said in a release. “The IIO does not agree to those conditions. As a result, the IIO is seeking the assistance of the court to resolve this matter.”
In its investigations, the IIO distinguishes between witness officers and subject officers, with the second category applying to officers who may be considered suspects and for whom the right to remain silent applies. Despite the “witness” designation of the officer in the court petition, the VPD’s union president said in April that the outstanding interviews in the case “all involve members that did use force, so regardless of what the IIO say, it is arguable they continue to face double jeopardy.”
Rightly or wrongly, when the public hears about a police officer attempting to avoid or shape investigators’ questions in a case of this nature, three reasons come to mind: the officer does not want to incriminate herself; the officer does not want to incriminate one or more of her fellow officers; the officer does not want to make statements that contradict other statements provided as part of the investigation.
None of these possibilities reflects well on the Vancouver police or should sit well with anyone who values justice for Myles Gray.