Shooting incident has been sensationalized on occasion

I have at times been very concerned with the coverage the RCMP has received with regard to the shooting of Alvin Wright.

Editor: I write to comment on your recent article “Al Wright Calls For Second Look Into Police Shooting” (The Times, May 24.)

It is important to start by stating that this was a very tragic set of circumstances, and there is not a single person with any connection to this event who does not wish it had a different outcome.

I have at times been very concerned with the coverage the RCMP has received with regard to this matter. The objective has appeared to be to sensationalize this incident and vilify the RCMP’s role in it.

This is particularly evident when one discounts or ignores evidence that has been presented, or as in this specific case, blatantly prints a mistruth. The article stated “. . . evidence at the inquest showed that a private conversation between Al Wright and his surviving son Alister, in which Al broke the news of Alvin’s death, was secretly recorded by the Langley RCMP without the family’s consent.”

In fact, the investigation of the shooting was conducted by the Vancouver Police Department, not the Langley RCMP. The Vancouver Police witness testified at the Coroner’s Inquest that the recorder was inadvertently left on when the investigator left the room.

The investigator was unaware of this until days later when the recording was transcribed. The VPD witness acknowledged the error and appropriately apologized to the family for the mistake. The assertion that the recording was done “secretly,” suggestive of surreptitious and underhanded behaviour, while dramatic, is not true.

There are also other assertions in your article that do not seem to be supported by the evidence identified in the VPD investigation, Office of Police Complaint Commissioner review of the VPD investigation and Coroner’s Inquest.

An example is the suggestion that police in some manner committed the offence(s) of “Obstruction of Justice or Criminal Breach of Trust,” when they allegedly “failed to preserve the shooting scene . . . by allowing the weapons to be moved.” There is no basis for this assertion.

If a police officer shoots a person threatening him/her with a weapon, the officer must then ensure the weapon is out of the reach of the wounded person. The reason for this is obvious, the safety of the police officer and anyone coming in to provide medical assistance.

As medical assistance arrives, such as the firefighters and paramedics as in this case, the weapon and other objects may be further moved to prevent injury and facilitate medical assistance. The safety of police officers and other emergency personnel, and the preservation of life, take priority over allowing weapons to remain where they fall.

Inaccurate or misleading comments reported in this case are not only unfair to those involved, but also to the readers of your paper. I would expect an accurate and balanced view of the evidence that is readily available.

Supt. D.R. Cooke,

Officer in Charge,

Langley Detachment, RCMP

Editor’s note — The Times erred in the story referred to, in stating that Langley RCMP had made the tape recording. It was actually made by Vancouver Police. We apologize for that mistake. The other issue  referred to was an allegation made by Al Wright, which should have been attributed more clearly.