A shot was fired at three Langley animal control officers during a police confrontation on 0 Avenue Friday night, Nov. 10, that ended with a fire and the apparent death of 66-year-old Don Bennett.
More details of the incident were disclosed by Sarah Jones, executive director of the Aldergrove-based Langley Animal Protection Society, who told the Langley Advance Times LAPS officers arrived to find a police standoff underway at a barn in the 23500-block of 0 Avenue, the road that runs along the Canada-U.S. border.
“They were told [by RCMP] that there was a wellness check happening, and there were dogs blocking access to the person,” Jones said.
“We were called in because one of [Bennett’s] dogs was in the outside of the barn in the fenced-off area, and so they could not access the door. So we went in to ‘catch pole’ that dog [and] we did that without incident. Then there was another dog, heard from inside, and that dog was in with Mr. Bennett.”
After what Jones described as a “significant amount of time” with no response from Bennett, the officers decided to investigate.
“Mr. Bennett didn’t say anything to them. They didn’t know if he was alive or not, or even in there, so they needed to check, so they jimmied open the door,” Jones described.
“It was really dark in the barn. When they attempted to open the barn door to retrieve the second dog, that moment is when the shot came through the door towards my officers.”
No one was hit, but as the officers scrambled to find cover, “our manager of animal control thought that one of his officers was shot, and one of the officers thought [the manager] was shot, because they went in opposite directions. For a while there, they thought each other had been shot, and that’s I think that was the hardest[for them].”
Jones said the three control officers included one who had been on the job just two weeks and came along to learn how to use a catch pole.
A counsellor was brought in.
“She was called that evening and had a session with each of them in the night to make sure that they were okay,” Jones said.
“They’re getting the mental health and emotional support they need, and they’re doing remarkably well, but I think this [is] something that [can] show up later.”
WorkSafe B.C. was to meet with the three a few days later to do a “critical incident” debrief.
Jones described the shooting as “very scary” and the “call I never wanted to get.”
“I send my staff out and I want them to come home safe,” she said.
“It’s a very dangerous job, and I don’t think a lot of people understand how dangerous animal control is. They’re essentially first responders, because if somebody is being attacked by a dog, their job is to go in and resolve that issue. They don’t get to run away. Their job is to go and secure the dog.”
The second dog was retrieved and both are at LAPS, where Jones described them as “not in good shape and behaviourally not sound.” One has a “bite history,” she added.
A subsequent fire destroyed the building and two police vehicles that night. Bennett was believed to be inside.
The incident is being investigated by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), a civilian-led police oversight agency responsible for conducting investigations into police-officer-involved incidents of death or serious harm.