RCMP cleared in shooting death of Prince George vet

B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office has cleared Prince George RCMP in the police-shooting death of a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder last year.
Canadian Forces veteran Greg Matters was getting treatment for his PTSD at the time of his death. (Photo courtesy of Matters family)

B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office has cleared Prince George RCMP in the police-shooting death of a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder last September.

Greg Matters, 40, was shot and killed after a 30-hour standoff with a police emergency response team on a rural property outside the city.

Matters was a soldier for 15 years, who served in the Bosnian conflict before returning to Prince George in 2009.

About a year and half before his death, he began treatment at the Operational Stress Injury clinic in Vancouver, one of nine across Canada funded by Veterans Affairs.

According to the IIO report by Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal, it was an apparent dispute between Greg and his brother at the house Matters shared with his mother that sparked the incident with police.

Brotherly dispute

The report says Matters alleged his brother had driven onto the property, violating a restraining order. As a result, Matters used his own car to chase his brother off the property and into a ditch.

When questioned by police, Matters's brother apparently claimed he was going to visit their mother when Matters gave chase, crashed into his vehicle then punched him.

RCMP decided to arrest Matters for dangerous driving, assault with a weapon and assault, but after repeated attempts by phone and in person, police could not get him to meet with them.

The following day, an emergency response team and helicopter were deployed, and repeated efforts were made by phone to resolve the situation peacefully.

However, according to the report, Matters became agitated on seeing the ERT and helicopter advancing, dropped the phone call and, the report says, raised a hatchet against the officers.

The report goes on to say officers attempted to stop Matters by using a Taser, but when this failed to be effective, officers fired the fatal shots.

'Extremely disappointed'

In a statement on behalf of Matters's sister Tracey, representative Lydia Gallant said the Matters family is "saddened and extremely disappointed" by the findings of the IIO investigation.

"The family has serious questions about a number of discrepancies, omissions, and speculation in the IIO report while acknowledging that they have not yet been provided with any investigative material other than the brief IIO report itself," the statement said.

Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said the findings provided more questions than answers.

"The IIO has an extremely limited mandate, restricted to determining whether there was evidence of a crime in the act of the fatal shooting, an act to which the only witnesses were police officers."

The BCCLA has launched a complaint with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP -- and Vonn said they trust many issues will come to light at the coroners inquest.

"The bereaved family of the victim and all British Columbians need to be assured that the circumstances of Greg Matters's death are thoroughly vetted to avoid such tragic outcomes in the future."

Last month, the military announced two members of Matters's family would receive a Memorial Cross, an award handed out when a soldier's death can be attributed to active service.