British Columbia

IIO asks Crown to consider charges against 5 Mounties in 2017 death of man in custody

B.C.’s independent police watchdog has forwarded a report to Crown counsel to consider charges related to use of force and obstruction of justice against five RCMP officers connected with the 2017 death of a Prince George man while in police custody.

35-year-old man who was pepper sprayed while being taken into custody later died

Dale Culver was 35 when he died. (Provided)

B.C.'s independent police watchdog has forwarded a report to Crown counsel asking it to consider charges related to use of force and obstruction of justice against five police officers involved in the 2017 death of a Prince George man in police custody.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. looked into the incident in which 35-year-old Dale Culver was pepper sprayed while being taken into custody on July 18, 2017 and later died.

According to a news release from the agency, its chief civilian director, Ronald J. MacDonald, has found that "reasonable grounds exist to believe that two officers may have committed offences in relation to use of force and three others may have committed offences regarding obstruction of justice." 

According to the IIO statement, RCMP had been called to the 1000 block of Central Street West after reports of a man "casing vehicles." Culver reportedly attempted to flee on a bicycle and a struggle ensued between him and the officers. The IIO report says pepper spray was used against Culver during the arrest and he was placed in the back of a police cruiser.

Culver started having trouble breathing shortly afterward and paramedics were called. He collapsed when taken out of the police car and was pronounced dead in hospital shortly after midnight.

Dale Culver was raised in Moricetown in northwest B.C. (Provided)

The agency had previously asked the Crown to consider laying charges against four of the officers, two of them in relation to use of force and the other two in relation to allegations of obstruction of justice in connection with a video of the alleged incident.

In 2018, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a formal complaint, alleging RCMP officers had told witnesses to delete video footage of the arrest.

The association also questioned whether "explicit or  implicit racial  bias" had played a role. It said it had been told there were "several hours" between the initial call to police and the arrival of RCMP on the scene and so had questions about whether Culvert was approached because he was Indigenous.

At the time, MacDonald said his organization was independently aware of allegations of witnesses being told to delete video footage of the incident but was not prepared to verify their accuracy until their investigation was complete.

Friday, the IIO said that additional lines of inquiry were identified after the agency's initial report to the Crown in 2019. Those lines of inquiry were investigated and the agency has now submitted an expanded investigative file to the Crown.

The B.C. Prosecution Service will now review the IIO report.

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