The sister of Peter de Groot, the man shot and killed by police in Slocan, B.C., said today that her brother had been "executed" and that the family was considering filing a civil suit.
Danna de Groot was speaking at a news conference in Vancouver, surrounded by members of her family and their lawyer, Cameron Ward.
In an emotional and lengthy statement, she detailed her many efforts to persuade the police to accept her help in finding her brother, the frustration she felt at misinformation being spread about him and the apparent lack of interest shown in bringing about a peaceful conclusion.
'Ashamed to be Canadian'
"We are outraged," she said. "For the first time ever, we are ashamed to be Canadian."
The de Groot family, she said, is "an average Canadian family. If this can happen to us, this can happen to you."
She described her "bright, intelligent" brother as a man who had gradually rebuilt his life after a workplace accident in 1994 and then, three years later, a massive brain aneurysm. He also had suffered six post-surgery grand mal seizures, in which he broke several bones, she said.
He hated taking painkillers because they clouded his thinking and, through diet, managed to reduce his seizures and wean himself from the medication. His peripheral vision and his senses remained compromised by the aneurysm.
She said her brother "worked harder than anyone can imagine" in order to be able to live independently. He did not, she said, have PTSD, schizophrenia, take drugs or drink alcohol. He was one of seven siblings.
Life outside on a small holding suited him, she said. He liked living somewhere that had no cellphone reception.
'It was easy to judge him'
The family had heard about him experiencing some problems with his neighbours, something, de Groot said, a lot of people have. But he looked different, and acted differently.
"His body was ravaged over time; it was easy to judge him."
They were told he was alleged to have shoved someone on Oct. 7.
That same morning, Danna de Groot said, a worker with the SPCA arrived at 9.15 a.m. PT with feed for her brother's animals, having heard he might have financial problems and be running short.
"Peter refused because he had enough," she said. The SPCA worker agreed, and "left without incident." The worker later described Peter de Groot as calm and his usual self.
What happened next, she said, was a gross over-reaction on the part of the police.
She said three RCMP officers, in three separate vehicles, were sent in response to the alleged shove. The officers drove onto the property and created a blockade. They stayed behind their cars and got out their guns.
Peter's worry, she said — which, owing to his medical issues could present more emphatically than is usual — may have been perceived as paranoia.
"Which, it turns out, was warranted."
The police, de Groot alleges, opened fire on her brother, knowing he had a small collection of guns.
"He ran away, and we consider any shots he may have fired to have been in self-defence."
What happened next, according to de Groot, was extreme and unwarranted, and could have been avoided had the family been listened to and allowed to help.
After being alerted to the situation by her sister in Amsterdam, de Groot said, her first reaction was to call the lead RCMP negotiator and ask if she should go to Slocan. She was told no. She asked what the plan was and was told, "to bring the incident to conclusion."
"I said that I thought the manhunt was excessive, that Peter would feel as though he was being ganged up on, and that I could talk to him."
'Why were we ignored?'
She called a law firm in the Slocan area and was told to start driving. Ten hours later she was in Castlegar, and was interviewed by police for two and a half hours, until around 3.30 a.m.
She told them Peter wasn't a violent person and repeatedly offered to walk into the bush to get him. She asked for a statement to be released to the media, police and community to correct the misinformation she felt was being circulated about her brother, an exchange that was repeated several times over the coming days.
"Why were we ignored and our efforts resisted?"
On the day Peter was shot and killed, de Groot said, she was told the manhunt was being downgraded to low priority. She left the police station feeling that things were finally calming down.
Driving through town, she ran into SUVs containing police dressed in "combat gear," she said.
"They had no interest in me helping. I said, 'I hope I find him before you do.'
"In retrospect, I wish I had begged them not to kill him."
Not long after, her brother was dead, shot and killed by police while lying down with a gun pointed toward the door of the cabin, she said.
"Four days in the bush without food or water. He had not committed any serious crime. He was weak and could have been sleeping on his front with his gun. The ERT 'interaction' was that they open fired and killed my brother.
"He was executed."
The family plans to start a fund or foundation in Peter de Groot's name between now and the inquest, the conclusions of which may prompt them to file a civil suit, she said, and ended her statement with the words of Henry David Thoreau: "All good things are wild and free."
- On mobile? Read Danna de Groot's full statement here