B.C.'s police watchdog has cleared a Dawson Creek RCMP officer in the fatal shooting of a Site C protester last year.
In a report issued by the Independent Investigations Office of BC today, the agency says "it does not consider that any police officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges."
James McIntyre, 48, was shot July 16, 2015, outside a Dawson Creek restaurant where an open house on the Site C dam project was taking place, after allegedly confronting officers with a knife. RCMP were called to the scene after a man flipped tables and tore up posters inside.
The controversial $8.8 billion dam project on the Peace River began construction later that summer.
The McIntyre shooting gained international attention in part due to McIntyre’s apparent association with the hacker group Anonymous. In the report, investigators confirmed McIntyre was wearing the Guy Fawkes mask associated with the group and carrying two knives. The IIO says McIntyre was fatally wounded by a single gunshot after witnesses described him "lunging towards," officers with an open switchblade in his hands.
"Police ordered the affected person to drop the knife. Pepper spray was deployed with no apparent effect. The affected person did not comply and was subsequently shot once by an officer," the IIO report reads.
McIntyre was shot around 7:16 p.m., according to the IIO's timeline, and was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital around 7:32 p.m., according to the report. The officer's bullet tore McIntyre's right femoral artery and vein, "causing death through massive blood loss," the IIO says.
The IIO says its investigation focused on whether the officer was legally justified in shooting McIntyre. Officers were not equipped with Tasers, the agency notes.
"There is no evidence that either officer did anything to provoke or justify these actions, but they were confronted with threatening and potentially deadly assaultive acts involving a non-trivial weapon. The threat was undeniably real and imminent," the IIO report reads.
"The officers’ response was, on the evidence, measured and appropriate."
The report provides an hour-long timeline of the incident, from the time officers were dispatched to the Fixx Urban Grill in Dawson Creek at 6:34 p.m. to 7:37 p.m. when officers requested the IIO be notified of the shooting.
Investigators gathered statements from 17 civilian witnesses to the shooting, along with three witness officers and two paramedics. It also analyzed police records, and video surveillance evidence.
The officer who shot McIntyre declined to be interviewed by IIO investigators and did not provide any written notes or report to the agency.
"As of the time this decision is being issued, it does not appear that the subject officer has completed any reports or notes of his recollection of the incident," the report reads.
"The IIO has, and continues to engage with the RCMP on the necessity of officers completing timely reports."
The officer was placed on administrative duties shortly after the shooting but had returned to active duty in December 2015. The report does not identify the RCMP member by name.
The IIO at first described the investigation as one of the most complex the agency has dealt with in its four-year history.
Investigators initially believed McIntyre was the same person who disturbed the Site C open house, but later learned Terry Hadland, a Peace Valley farmer, was responsible for the disruption.
The IIO’s Marten Youssef said the case attracted more attention than most.
“This is obviously a really unique case in that it attracted a lot of media attention across the country,” he said. “We’ve obviously faced a higher degree of pressure and scrutiny on this particular case.”
The IIO also investigated whether the Anonymous-linked Twitter account @jaymack9 belonged to McIntyre, but reached no firm conclusions about whether the two were linked. Anonymous members claimed responsibility for a number of cyber attacks following the shooting, including on the City of Dawson Creek’s website.
In interviews one year after the shooting, family described McIntyre as a quiet man who built elaborate model train layouts, started a recycling program at work and lived in the same apartment building as his mother.
More to come.