An IIO report says Langley RCMP officers used appropriate levels of force when restraining a man who later died of a cocaine overdose.
The report by the Independent Investigations Office details the actions of three officers who responded to a dropped 9-1-1 call in the early hours of Oct. 23, 2019, near 72nd Avenue and 208th Street on the Willoughby slope.
The incident began with a dropped call from a cellphone at 3:05 a.m., according to the report from the IIO, which looks into all incidents in which a person is injured or dies following an interaction with police in B.C.
The dispatcher who received the 9-1-1 call tried to call back twice, but no one picked up. They then pinged the cell phone to determine the approximate location, and an RCMP officer was dispatched to search the area.
The caller was known to police as someone with mental health and drug use issues, according to the report.
The officer, referred to as Subject Officer 1 or SO1 in the report, found the caller at 3:19 a.m., just 14 minutes after the initial call.
The officer called in other RCMP and asked that Emergency Health Services (EHS) be placed on standby.
A second officer who arrived a minute later told dispatch that the man was “super high on something” and was already fighting with police.
A third officer, SO3, arrived, and between the three of them, they took the person into custody at 3:26 a.m.
SO3 told the IIO in a statement that when they arrived, the first two officers had the subject on the ground face down, attempting to put on handcuffs. SO3 saw SO2, the second responding officer, say “stop resisting” and hit the subject in the abdomen three times.
The punches are referred to as “distraction blows.”
Two minutes after taking the man into custody, the officers called in that the man was unconscious.
Police gave him naloxone and started CPR, taken over by firefighters, and later by paramedics as they arrived.
The man was declared dead a 4:11 a.m.
Toxicology and autopsy results showed that the man died of a drug overdose due to cocaine, and that while he sustained some injuries in the fight with police, they were not serious enough to cause his death.
The IIO report, signed by chief civilian director Ronald McDonald, says the officers did well in locating the subject.
“By the time the SO1 arrived, AP [affected person] was already in a drug induced state,” the report says.
He needed medical assistance and resisted police efforts to get him help.
“As a result, the police were authorized to place him in custody for his own protection,” the report says.
“In this case there is evidence of AP actively resisting the efforts of police for at least a few minutes,” McDonald’s report said. “In such a case a moderate amount of force is justified to allow the police to gain control of a person.”
The dead man’s most serious injuries were fractured ribs, according to an autopsy. The report does not speculate on how the man’s ribs were broken, whether it was the “distraction blows,” the CPR, or another cause.
Regardless, the report says the only other injuries were scrapes, and there is no evidence of significant injury from the struggle, including any head injury.
“This suggests police used an appropriate amount of force only,” the report says.
McDonald’s report found that none of the officers committed any offences during the incident.
Only one of the three officers who were directly involved with subduing the man submitted a statement about the incident that night to the IIO.