IIO clears Kelowna RCMP officer in shooting of homeless man

B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has cleared a Kelowna RCMP officer of any criminal wrongdoing in connection with an August, 2017, incident where she shot a homeless man carrying an axe handle.

The IIO released its report on the incident on Thursday concluding that the RCMP officer didn’t commit a crime or any other offence.

The report said the homeless man “fully recovered” from the shooting but does not describe the nature of his injuries.

He was shot on Aug. 3, 2017 after the RCMP officer and a city employee went to check on a report of an “unauthorized” camp on Duck Lake 7 reserve near Kelowna.

The IIO concluded that before the shooting the officer “was faced with an angry man advancing toward her with a large axe handle in a threatening manner. The fact that he had failed to comply with any direction from the officer only made the perceived threat worse.”

“While she attempted to retreat to safety, she found herself blocked by the fence. Thus it was certainly reasonable for her to conclude that this non-compliant and angry male with a significant weapon could easily cause her imminent grievous bodily harm,” the IIO report stated.

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The report shows the homeless man and the city employee gave IIO investigators very different accounts of what transpired before the shooting.

The man who was shot said he was holding the axe handle, which was roughly a meter long, to use it as a crutch after he suffered a spider bite.

He also denied moving towards the RCMP officer.

The IIO report said the man told investigators “the interaction lasted approximately 10 minutes until he struck the ground with the axe handle to indicate his frustration. [The man] said he ‘wobbled’ from side to side and [the officer] shot him’.”

In contrast, according to the IIO’s report, the city employee told investigators the man “took several steps towards them and waved the axe handle around,” and was warned by the officer repeatedly to put his weapon down because the officer didn’t want to have to shoot him.

The IIO found two pictures taken by the city staff member before the shooting support the city employee’s statements that the man moved towards them.

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