The body of a man was discovered in the 1100 block of Broadway Avenue South Jan. 14. (Angie Mindus file photo)

B.C.’s police watchdog finds Williams Lake RCMP, Crown tried to prevent death of man in need of help

Courts released man from custody against wishes of police

B.C.’s police watchdog has found Williams Lake RCMP and Crown Counsel did everything they could to prevent the tragic death of a man in Williams Lake earlier this month.

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC came to the conclusion following an investigation into the incident where the man was found dead at about 6 a.m. on the back steps of Dog ‘N’ Suds restaurant Jan. 14, 2021 in the 1100 block of Broadway Avenue South.

IIO determined the man was released from custody by the courts just the day before his death, despite efforts by police and Crown Counsel to keep him detained due to concerns the man was suicidal.

Williams Lake RCMP first encountered the man Jan. 11, 2021, at approximately 2 a.m., when they were called to a residence in the 700 block of Midnight Drive regarding a suspicious person. When officers arrived, they located four individuals nearby, one of whom, a man, was found to have outstanding warrants and was taken into custody.

IIO said police became aware that the man had recently made suicidal comments which caused officers to be concerned for his welfare should he be released. As a result, they recommended that he be detained. Crown Counsel also raised these concerns during the man’s Jan. 13 bail hearing and opposed his release.

“The court decided not to detain the male and released him on conditions,” stated the IIO in a news release.

The next day the man was found dead.

“The IIO’s Chief Civilian Director has reviewed the evidence, including police records, jail logs and statements from involved parties, and determined that police actions/inactions did not play any role in the man’s tragic death. In fact, both police and Crown Counsel took positions that attempted to prevent this outcome. The IIO investigation is therefore concluded.”

The IIO is the independent civilian oversight agency of the police in British Columbia. It investigates all officer-related incidents that result in serious harm or death, whether or not there is any allegation of wrongdoing.

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