B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner has called a public hearing into the death of a woman who was struck by plastic bullets fired by Victoria police on Christmas Day 2019.
A statement from the office says a Police Act investigation had identified two allegations of misconduct stemming from an officer’s use of force and a lack of documentation of the incident.
It says the allegations of abuse of authority and neglect of duty were found to be unsubstantiated by an independent police investigation in July.
But the notice of public hearing says the family of the 43-year-old woman made a request for the hearing, saying they saw inconsistencies in the information given to them from police and B.C.’s police watchdog.
Vancouver police sergeant under investigation for creating inappropriate poster
Ronald MacDonald, the head of the Independent Investigations Office of B.C., declined to recommend possible charges in 2020, saying there were no reasonable grounds to believe an officer committed an offence. MacDonald’s decision says the woman who died was intoxicated and threatened residents at a housing facility before a fire broke out in a suite where she was barricaded and officers had no choice but to use force to end the situation.
With smoke billowing from the window of the suite, police were authorized to open the door, but visibility was poor and the woman wasn’t coming out, the decision says.
Police had begun moving into the suite when an officer fired three “projectiles” from an ARWEN “less-lethal launcher,” striking the woman in the head, it says.
The weapon fires a “large, rounded, hard plastic projectile,” and is intended to be fired at the body, preferably striking muscled areas, MacDonald’s decision says. Through the smoke, the officer thought he’d been aiming at her abdomen, it says.
The woman was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital, where she never woke up after being placed on a ventilator, MacDonald’s decision says.
Vancouver police department shoot and arrest the wrong man
Lisa Rauch died a few days later when she was taken off life support.
The notice of the public hearing released Thursday says the post-mortem report indicates Rauch died as a result of “blunt force head injuries.”
It says Rauch was homeless and had been living as a member of the “marginalized and at-risk community” in Victoria at the time of her death.
Former B.C. attorney general and judge Wally Oppal has been appointed to adjudicate the public hearing.
© 2023 The Canadian Press