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Officer cleared for shooting in response to bear spray assault in BC RCMP detachment

The provincial police watchdog has cleared an officer involved in a shooting at the Prince George RCMP detachment last year.

On July 11, 2022, the RCMP were booking a suspected shoplifter who was in possession of two knives, bear spray and a CO2 powered pellet pistol.

According to a report prepared by Ronald J. MacDonald, chief civilian director for the Independent Investigations Office of BC, the suspect was left unattended at the booking counter without handcuffs.

Video footage from inside the detachment showed the man leaning across the counter and grabbing the bear spray before deploying it behind the counter and at the responding officer.

Shortly after the bear spray was deployed, the officer who was hit with the spray fired his gun at the suspect.

<who> Photo Credit: IIO of BC

According to MacDonald’s report, video evidence shows the man dropped the can, fell to the floor and appeared injured.

“Two civilian employees were also present in the guard room area behind the booking counter at the time of the incident, and were also in danger of being affected by the bear spray or injured by any other weapon available to (the affected person) by simply reaching over the counter,” the report states.

The report says the man acknowledged a lack of judgment when he grabbed the spray from behind the counter and deployed it.

“‘I didn’t give it any thought. It just happened,’ (the affected person) recalled that he was initially spraying at (the subject officer’s) head from about two and a half feet away and then directed the spray down (the officer’s) body,” the report explains.

MacDonald says that although the bear spray was an assault, and would not usually be considered as posing threat of death of grievous bodily harm, the circumstances were not “the usual.”

The report says the officer found himself with impaired vision, retreating from an unexpected and “irrational” attack by a person who had other weapons within their reach.

There were also unarmed civilians within the same enclosed area, the report points out.

MacDonald says the practice of the officer placing seized weapons on an unsecured shelf within easy reach of detainees could be criticized as “sloppy and risky” but the officer’s response to the suspect’s assault was within a “reasonable and justifiable” range.

The report says the officer only fired one round and was able to neutralize the threat to himself and the civilians in the building while using no further force.

“(Affected person’s) injury was the result of his own impulsive and essentially inexplicable acts,” the report concludes.

The investigation did not find “reasonable grounds” that any officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and no charges recommendations will be forwarded to the province.

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