British Columbia·CBC Investigates

City of Vancouver denies liability in fatal police takedown of Myles Gray

The City of Vancouver, faced with a lawsuit over the fatal police takedown of a Sechelt businessman, is now fighting back.

Sechelt businessman's family told police "cannot be sued" over his death

A white man with ruddy skin, wearing a black ballcap and a grey tank top, holds a large fish in both hands.
Myles Gray was killed in an altercation with Vancouver police officers in a Burnaby, B.C., backyard in August 2015. (Submitted by Margie Gray)

The City of Vancouver, faced with a lawsuit over the fatal police takedown of a Sechelt businessman, is now fighting back.

In a response to the B.C. Supreme court civil action filed by the parents of Myles Thomas Gray, the city denies most of their allegations — and says the rest are either outside its knowledge or will be determined by an investigation into the death by the civilian-led  Independent Investigations Office.

The city also claims the Vancouver Police Department can't be sued.

In February, Margie and Mark Gray launched a civil claim against the city, the Vancouver Police Board, the Vancouver Police Department and unknown police officers simply labelled "John Does 1 through 11".

Margie and Mark Gray, parents of Myles Gray, launched their lawsuit against the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Board and the VPD in February. (CBC)

The couple allege seven of those police officers wrongfully killed their son by beating him to death, "using excessive force" and "inflicting massive trauma … with no valid, lawful reason".

The couple also allege the city and the police board "contributed directly to the wrongful death … by failing to ensure the police board educated, trained and supervised the seven officers."

"Physical altercation" leads to lawsuit

On August 13, 2015, Vancouver officers responded to a disturbance in the 3600 block of South East Marine Drive, near the Burnaby border.

Myles Gray, 33, a greenery supplier, had walked away from a nearby florist wholesaler where he was making a delivery and allegedly got into an argument with a woman who was watering her garden during drought restrictions.

At the time, the VPD said they "responded to a call of a distraught man causing a disturbance"— and when the first officers arrived, "he became agitated."

Police tape at the foot of the property at Joffre Avenue and South East Marine Drive in Burnaby, where Myles Gray died in an altercation with Vancouver Police. (CBC)

Officers chased Gray across a Boundary Road overpass into a Burnaby backyard, where "attempts to subdue the man with chemical agents were unsuccessful. A physical altercation ensued."

Gray died of undetermined injuries. The coroner's report into his death has been withheld pending the IIO investigation into the officers' actions.

Gray's parents are seeking unspecified damages.

City says VPD "improperly named" in civil action

In its response to their civil claim, the City of Vancouver alleges the bereaved parents have many of their facts wrong— and other facts have yet to be determined by the independent investigation.

"The identities and actions of the 11 Vancouver Police officers… are unknown to the City … and will be provided in the city's amended response to the civil claim after the IIO has concluded its criminal investigation into the death of Myles Thomas Gray", states the city's response.

The city also claims the Vancouver Police department shouldn't have been included in the Gray's lawsuit.

"The Vancouver Police Department has been improperly named … as a defendant. The Vancouver Police Department cannot be sued. It is not a juridical entity and has no legal status of any kind."

And as for training of police officers, the City says that's not its job. It only pays the bills.

"The City's sole statutory duty in respect of policing and law enforcement is to bear the expenses necessary to maintain law and order within its boundaries … police constables are not agents, employees or servants of the municipality in which they serve. The city is, therefore, not responsible for training or supervising Vancouver police constables."

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

A date for the lawsuit has yet to be set.


Eric Rankin

Investigative journalist

Eric Rankin is an award-winning CBC reporter. His honours include the 2018 Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Reportage, the 2017 and 2015 RTDNA awards for Best In-depth/Investigative Reporting, and the 2009 Jack Webster award for Best News Reporting.