The family of a mentally ill man who was shot and killed by Ridge Meadows RCMP continues to call for a criminal investigation.
A lawyer for the family of the late Kyaw Din said he is expecting a coroner’s inquest, and they may file a lawsuit against the RCMP.
Din was 54, an immigrant from Myanmar, and suffered from schizophrenia. He was shot three times by police in August 2019, while at his home in Maple Ridge. His family had called police to assist paramedics in taking him to hospital, as they had done on 11 previous occasions.
The Independent Investigations Office did not recommend criminal charges in the shooting, as the police watchdog found officers were justified in the use of force.
“After the bedroom door was opened, AP threw an object in the officer’s direction. A conducted energy weapon was deployed but was not effective. AP then charged at officers with a knife in his hand, and was fatally shot by the subject officer,” said the IIO report, which was released in September of 2020.
Last week, the victim’s sister Yin Yin Din spoke at a press conference in Coquitlam. She said the IIO had found her testimony to be inconsistent. Ronald MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the IIO, said Yin Yin has given the agency four different versions of events, and he did not consider her a reliable witness.
Yin Yin made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, to formally ask for information about her testimony. It included a video of her recounting the events with a member of the IIO. At the press conference, she tried to show that her testimony has been consistent.
She maintains she was as little as three feet behind the two officers who entered her brother’s room with a Taser, and heard them shoot him.
She has asked the IIO to reconsider its decision to not recommend the matter to Crown for charges.
“Again, we would like to emphasize the fact that you have blocked our access to justice by denying to transfer Kyaw’s file to the Crown Counsel. Your decision is entirely biased and wrong. Instead of holding the Ridge Meadow police officers who committed murder accountable, you are unlawfully protecting them from being prosecuted,” she wrote to MacDonald recently.
“Please put yourself in our position. Please ask yourself how you would feel in our place that a family member was murdered by the police officers, over two years have passed, but no justice has been done. Please put yourself in our place and feel the indescribable trauma and grief we have been going through.”
Her lawyer, Neil Chantler, said she has legitimate grievances with the IIO’s findings in the report, because they preferred police testimony over hers.
“They feel there has been a real injustice,” said Chantler. “We were very disappointed. We found very hard to convince the IIO this is a case that should be referred to Crown (for charges),” he said.
He said in a situation where a civilian is shot by police in his bedroom, it is “outrageous” and “almost impossible to believe” that the matter was not referred to Crown.
“We determine the truth at trail. We don’t determine the truth at the investigative stage,” said Chantler.
He said the family has been pushing for a coroner’s inquest, and expect that after a backlog of cases due to COVID-19, the BC Coroner’s Service will soon announce one. In that process, a jury will review the circumstances of Din’s death, and can summon witnesses to testify under oath. An inquest is not intended to assign blame, but makes recommendations to prevent future loss of life.
An inquest has not yet been announced.
“I can confirm that our investigation into this death remains open,” said BC Coroners Service spokesperson Ryan Panton, adding that if an inquest is directed, it will be confirmed via a public announcement of the date.
MacDonald said a coroner’s inquest could speak to police training, policy and broader social issues – including the issue of who should be responding to mental health calls.
“Should it even be the police?” he asked.
The IIO head said Yin Yin Din has raised nothing new with her recent press conference and her “significant claims against the police” to make him reconsider the decision to not forward the matter to Crown.
He noted that independent evidence from paramedics at the shooting placed Yin Yin farther away from the incident than she has stated, making it impossible for her to witness what happened.
The bottom line, he said, is the IIO investigation determined she could not have seen what she said she witnessed.
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