Mounties avoid charges in 2013 chase that injured newspaper carrier

"Under the RCMP’s pursuit policy, the pursuit should have been terminated and likely should not have been initiated in the first place"

The Mounties involved in a car chase that left a bystander newspaper carrier gravely injured last December will not face charges despite what appears to have been the application of faulty judgment.

The Criminal Justice Branch of the Ministry of Justice announced Thursday there is no substantial likelihood of conviction for any driving offences under either the Criminal Code or provincial Motor Vehicle Act against the three Mounties who were the subject of the investigation stemming from the Dec. 6 2013 incident that left paper carrier Steve Kania injured.

“In completing the charge assessment Crown counsel has taken into account that under the RCMP’s pursuit policy, the pursuit should have been terminated and likely should not have been initiated in the first place, as it began solely as a result of the a failure to stop for police,” reads a statement on the matter.

“Crown counsel has concluded, however, that even if a decision to engage in a pursuit is mistaken or not in accordance with RCMP policy, this does not necessarily deprive a police officer of the protections that would otherwise be available for engaging in risky driving during a properly justified pursuit. Nor does it necessarily establish that an officer’s driving was dangerous within the meaning of the Criminal Code. Although internal policies applicable to police officers are relevant to the overall analysis, non-compliance with some aspect of a policy is not determinative of criminal or regulatory liability. It is but a factor for consideration in the charge assessment.”

Members of the Kelowna RCMP were operating a check stop for impaired driving Dec. 6 2013. At approximately 12:26 a.m. a vehicle approached and initially stopped at the check stop. The roadblock was set up in an area of mixed-use zoning, with big-box stores, hotels and residential housing, bordering on an exclusively residential area to the east and north-east, commercial to the west and north-west, and parkland to the south.

“According to police witnesses, after initially stopping the vehicle, the suspect driver then drove forward towards a police officer who yelled at the driver to stop. The vehicle continued to drive past this officer, nearly striking him, and forcing him to move out of the way,” read the summary of the decision.

“He rapped on the window with his flashlight as the vehicle drove past him, but the vehicle continued on, squeezed between a marked police car and another vehicle and then sped away.”

The senior officer at the check stop broadcast over the police radio that they “had just had a guy run.” Two police vehicles, including one driven by this senior officer began to pursue the vehicle. Both police vehicles had their emergency lights activated.

The two police vehicles caught up with the pursued vehicle and there was contact between the pursued vehicle and each of the two police vehicles. It is not entirely clear from the available evidence who initiated each of these side-by-side collisions, the report read. After the collisions, the suspect driver carried on, as the police vehicles continued to pursue it; however, from this point on the vehicle driven by the senior officer no longer played a significant role in the remainder of the pursuit.

The second officer initially involved in the pursuit subsequently broadcast over the radio that he was calling the pursuit off.

“A supervising officer, who was at the detachment office, also broadcast over the radio that the cars should “stand down” and let the dog unit handle the pursuit. However, it seems that this latter broadcast was not heard over the radio by all officers, due to radio problems,” read the report.

“Many officers who were involved in the pursuit stated that they did not hear the broadcast terminating the pursuit.”

Additional police vehicles began to pursue the fleeing vehicle. Ultimately, the first police vehicle behind the fleeing vehicle was some distance back and the officer driving it lost sight of the vehicle that was being pursued.

Another officer meanwhile stopped his police vehicle at an intersection ahead of the fleeing vehicle, partially blocking the road that it was travelling on. His police vehicle had its emergency lights activated.

“The pursued vehicle approached this intersection and then swerved off the road, missing the police vehicle, but striking a pedestrian, who was seriously injured. The vehicle hit a fire hydrant and came to a halt. The total pursuit lasted about seven minutes,” read the report.

The officers who were subject to the IIO investigation consisted of: the senior officer at the roadblock, who was one of the two officers who initiated the pursuit; the officer who was in the lead police vehicle pursuing the suspect at the time the pedestrian was struck; and the officer who placed his vehicle in the intersection in front of the suspect.

The First Officer

Crown counsel has concluded that there is not a substantial likelihood of conviction for any driving related offence in the case of the officer who initiated the pursuit. As a result, no charges have been approved in relation to this officer.

The officer pursued a vehicle that fled a roadblock and nearly struck a fellow officer, then sped up to catch that vehicle. The officer disengaged from the pursuit once the officer’s vehicle and the pursued vehicle had collided. The CJB cannot prove the officer initiated this contact between vehicles. When the officer’s driving as a whole is assessed, the CJB has concluded it cannot prove a marked departure from the standard of care that would be undertaken by a reasonable police officer in the circumstances.

The Second Officer

Crown counsel has also concluded that there is not a substantial likelihood of conviction for any driving related offence in the case of the officer who was the lead car in the pursuit at the time of the collision with the pedestrian. As a result, no charges have been approved in relation to this officer.

The roads were dry, the officer’s emergency lights were activated and the high speeds occurred along straighaways, with slowing at corners and intersections. The officer was a significant distance behind the pursued vehicle when it struck the pedestrian.

Crown counsel has concluded that although the driving took place in a pursuit that was apparently initiated contrary to RCMP policy, this is not sufficient, on its own, to elevate the officer’s driving to the level required to prove criminal conduct.

The Third Officer

Crown counsel has further concluded that there is not a substantial likelihood of conviction for any driving related offences in relation to the officer who blocked the roadway in advance of the pursued vehicle. As a result, no charges have been approved in relation to this officer.

The available evidence supports a conclusion that by placing the police vehicle in the intersection at the time, and in the manner that took place, the officer was likely trying to block the road so that the pursued vehicle would be forced to stop.

The CJB has concluded that the available evidence is not capable of establishing that the officer placed the vehicle in such a manner that the pursued driver did not have time to stop safely, or was forced off the road with the resultant collision with a pedestrian.

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