Officer investigated 3 times has bad luck, lawyer says

The lawyer for a Hamilton constable cleared Friday in a shooting death in February says his client has "had some bad luck."

The lawyer for a Hamilton constable cleared Friday in a shooting death in February says his client has "had some bad luck."

Gary Crewley of Toronto represented Const. Ryan Tocher, the Hamilton Police Service officer who has been investigated three times for excessive force by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

The most recent was in the death of 27-year-old Phonesay Chanthachack of Hamilton, who Tocher shot twice as Chanthachack attempted to exit a parking lot in a stolen van.

"He's just had some bad luck," Crewley said in regards to Tocher's three investigations — one in 2007, one in 2010 and one this year.

"Naysayers would have said he had no business co-operating with the (investigation)" after the last two, Crewley said. "But he co-operated."

Tocher was part of a team of officers watching a stolen van in a parking lot at 15 Albright Rd. around 1 p.m. on Feb. 13.

The driver of the van, Chanthachack, attempted to pull out onto the road. Tocher pulled in front of him and an unmarked police vehicle boxed him in from the back.

Chanthachack reversed the van and ran into the rear vehicle, the SIU said in a statement Friday. Tocher got out of his vehicle and yelled at Chanthachack to show his hands and get out of the van.

The stolen van moved toward him and Tocher shot Chanthachack in the wrist, the statement said. The van kept moving and "made contact with the officer," who shot again, this time hitting Chanthachack in the chest.

Even while shot twice, Chanthachack pulled out of the parking lot, stopping about 100 metres down the road when he hit a pole at Quigley Road.

Tocher's use of force was legally justified to "preserve himself from imminent death or bodily harm" said Ian Scott, director of the SIU.

"When one considers the subject officer's position in relation to the van, the fact that he had just been in physical contact with it, the rapid succession of the shots fired and the inherent lags associated with reaction times, I am satisfied that the subject officer's second discharge of his firearm was also reasonable in this dynamic and fluid situation," he said.

Tocher was charged, but found not guilty, in the beating of Po La Hay in a botched drug raid in May 2010.

He was also cleared in 2007 after the shooting death of Cambodian refugee Soun Saing, who assaulted the owner of a pool hall.