After 31 months, investigation into Myles Gray's death may be nearing an end
Police officer cooperates with investigators, but another fight between IIO and VPD is still underway
The standoff between B.C.'s independent police watchdog and Vancouver police has reached a detente in the investigation into the death of Myles Gray, but a second dispute is still raging in court.
The Independent Investigations Office says Const. Hardeep Sahota has ended her refusals and has now been interviewed for a second time about what she saw on the day of Gray's death. As a result, the IIO has withdrawn its petition asking for a B.C. Supreme Court judge to compel her co-operation.
"I am pleased that we were able to find a way of resolving this matter," the IIO's chief civilian director, Ron MacDonald, said in a news release.
"I am confident this resolution will avoid unnecessary delay, while maintaining the integrity of our investigation."
The IIO says the bulk of the investigation is now complete and the next step is to review all of the evidence.
It's now been 31 months since Gray, a 33-year-old businessman from Sechelt, died after a violent struggle with as many as eight Vancouver police officers. Police officers were the only witnesses to the altercation, and investigators haven't found any video of what happened.
Gray's mother Margie is exasperated by the lengths required to secure Sahota's cooperation.
"We're surprised that it had to go as far as a court petition. She should have been compliant in the first place," Gray told CBC News.
Sahota is considered a witness and not a suspect in Gray's death, which means she is required to cooperate with IIO investigators under the terms of a memorandum of understanding with B.C. police departments. Suspect officers can refuse to cooperate to avoid self-incrimination.
An autopsy of her son's body revealed a long list of injuries, including "fractured voice box; nasal fracture; dislocated jaw; fractured right orbital eye socket; fractured posterior right third rib; fractured sternum; hemorrhagic injury of one testicle; multi-focal bruising to thigh and right arm," according to the IIO's now-withdrawn petition.
Another standoff over police cooperation
But even as the Vancouver Police Department and the IIO have come to an understanding on the Gray investigation, another court battle shows no signs of cooling.
A year ago, the IIO filed a separate petition with B.C. Supreme Court, asking for seven VPD officers to cooperate with its investigation into the 2016 shooting death of Daniel Peter Rintoul outside a Canadian Tire.
The officers have refused to be interviewed, unless they can first read dispatch logs, listen to dispatch audio recordings and watch any videos of the incident.
The IIO argues that giving officers access to those materials might affect their memories and interfere with the investigation.
Lawyers for Vancouver police and the watchdog faced off in B.C. Supreme Court twice last month, but there has yet to be any resolution in the case.
Since the new year, the two sides have been busy filing applications with the court, calling for evidence to be deemed inadmissible or for the judge to compel the submission of new evidence.
An application from the police department asks for the IIO to hand over the very recordings that are at the heart of the disagreement — the audio, video and written files the watchdog doesn't want the officers to see before they're interviewed.
Vancouver Police Union lawyer Kevin Woodall writes in the application that the officers would not be permitted to view that material without written consent.
The IIO is opposing that request, calling the recordings "irrelevant" and saying they "could not be used to prove or disprove a material fact."
None of the allegations made by either side has been proven in court.