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IIO clears RCMP of wrongdoing in stolen pickup truck incident

The Independent Investigations Office of BC says officers who used a passive roadblock to stop a stolen pickup truck have been cleared of wrongdoing.

According to the IIO’s report, the incident happened on Oct. 5 when officers were following up on a report of a stolen truck. Police found the vehicle in the parking lot of a Courtenay Tim Hortons, and the driver rammed the police vehicle, disabling it, and raced away.

The report says officers followed with increased resources including unmarked vehicles and aerial surveillance. They say they saw the driver speeding in random directions and he rammed two more police vehicles when they both tried to block his path.

Officers did not pursue him to avoid a dangerous chase, but still watched according to the report.

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The IIO says the driver eventually found himself stuck in a dead-end residential street. Witness statements and recorded video show an officer pull his vehicle behind a garbage truck, facing the stolen truck.

Another officer arrived shortly after and parked their car nearby, effectively blocking the road. The IIO say one officer excited her police vehicle to lay down a spike belt. However, the pickup turned around and started speeding down the road.

The officer got back into her car and quickly put on her seatbelt, telling IIO investigators that she “thought he was going to hit [them].”

Instead of hitting the officers, the man swerved to the right and up the sidewalk to try and smash through the parked garbage truck and a fence. However, the truck’s wheels hit a rock and the it flipped over, slid forward into the intersection on its side and rolled when it hit the opposite curb.

One of the truck’s wheels had fallen off and the man was arrested and taken to hospital with internal injuries, according to the report.

IIO chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald says if police had not blocked the road the driver would not have been injured at that time, and police actions caused harm indirectly.

MacDonald adds it is easier to look at the situation with hindsight than it was for the officers in the moment.

He adds they did not pick a busy location for the incident, did not place themselves in increased danger by getting out of their vehicles and facing the vehicle on foot and did not draw firearms or use their vehicles as rams.

“The police cannot be expected to utilize a tactic that eliminates all risk, only one that keeps risk to a reasonable minimum,” wrote MacDonald. “By utilizing a passive roadblock, they did that, and while the outcome was unfortunate, the officers cannot reasonably be blamed for that.”

MacDonald says there are no reasonable grounds to refer charges to Crown counsel.

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