VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s police watchdog is shedding light on the severe injuries suffered by a man during a deadly encounter with Vancouver police in a court document seeking an order for an officer to be interviewed as a witness.
The injuries are outlined in a petition filed Wednesday by the Independent Investigations Office asking the B.C. Supreme Court to compel the officer to co-operate with its investigation into the death of Myles Gray.
The petition lists the findings of an autopsy describing Gray’s injuries, which include a fractured voice box, dislocated jaw, damaged testicle, broken eye socket and fractured sternum. It says the cause of Gray’s death has not been determined.
It says Gray died Aug. 13, 2015, after eight police officers responded to reports of a distraught man who was described by a caller as “apparently high on drugs and alcohol” and spraying a woman with a garden hose.
The investigations office alleges in its petition that Const. Hardeep Sahota of the Vancouver police has refused to grant investigators a second interview. The petition says Sahota is considered a witness and her actions are not believed to have contributed to Gray’s death.
“As there were no civilian or independent witnesses to the incident, and given her presence during most of the incident, the interview is essential to the progress of the … investigation,” the document says.
“Investigators have exhausted all means to get Const. Sahota to comply with her statutory duty to co-operate. This failure to co-operate has frustrated, and continues to frustrate, the (Independent Investigation Office’s) ability to fulfil its mandate of conducting a thorough investigation into an incident involving the police that resulted in a man’s death.”
Neither Sahota nor the Vancouver police have filed a response to the petition with the court and the officer’s lawyer, Kevin Woodall, declined comment, saying the Vancouver Police Union would issue a statement.
The petition quotes from a letter it received from Woodall outlining two conditions before his client would agree to a second interview.
He asks for an advance transcript of Sahota’s initial interview with the police watchdog and requests it promise in writing it will not disclose her statements to anyone other than Crown counsel to either consider or prosecute criminal charges.
The independent investigations office declined both requests, saying it would provide Sahota and her lawyer with access to a transcript of her earlier interview under supervision but it does not distribute written copies of transcripts during active investigations.
The office also said it should be “self-evident” that it does not provide evidence from investigations “to anyone without due authorization.”
“Authorized agencies other than the Crown, such as the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner or the coroners’ service may have lawful requirements for that material,” the document says.
Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Jason Robillard said he had not seen a copy of the petition.
“This has been a long, difficult process for everyone involved, including Mr. Gray’s family and friends and our officers and their families,” he said, adding that there was no further information the department could provide at this time.
— Follow @gwomand on Twitter