An RCMP officer who killed a man during a confrontation near Nelson has launched a lawsuit against the provincial police watchdog alleging the investigation that cleared him of any wrongdoing after the shooting took too long.
Corp. Brian Burke says in a statement of claim that the Independent Investigations Office took on the case a day after he shot Peter De Groot in a cabin near Slocan in October 2014.
The statement, filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Aug. 31, says it took 3 1/2 years for the office to issue the decision that Burke acted lawfully and was justified in using deadly force.
When the investigations office issued its report in March, it acknowledged that the probe took an “unfortunate” length of time.
The lawsuit asserts that the delay was because the office failed to use properly trained experts and didn’t gather all the relevant evidence.
None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in court and a statement of defence hasn’t been filed.
READ MORE: RCMP cleared in death of De Groot
READ MORE: De Groot family slams investigation report
The office’s chief civilian director, Ron MacDonald, wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit Thursday, saying he wanted to respect the court process.
“The IIO’s response to the allegations will be made within the context of our pleadings, but I don’t think ethically it would be appropriate for me to talk about them outside the court,” he said.
RCMP deputy commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr said after the report was release that the delay compounded the trauma and was unacceptable for De Groot’s family, the officers involved and the community.
Burke’s statement of claim says he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2010, but at the time of the shooting he was healthy.
His PTSD symptoms returned after the shooting, the lawsuit says.
“As a result of the chronic stress caused by the lengthy investigation, Burke went off work due to a disability in April 2017,” the lawsuit says. “Burke remains off work and is unable to work due to disability.”
MacDonald said the reasons for the delay were set out in the report released in March.
“The fact that the original pathology report suggested that the affected person was shot in the back, which then led the IIO to other investigations,” he said, adding that more information was eventually received that made it clear no officer had committed an offence.
The report says the initial evidence that De Groot had been shot in the back was later countered by analysis from pathologists.
Burke’s lawsuit asks for damages and calls on the court to determine that the investigations office was negligent.
“The losses Burke suffered are reasonably foreseeable consequences of the IIO’s negligent investigation, or in the alternative, negligence,” the statement alleges.
The Canadian Press