RCMP shoulder flash. Stock photo.

Police watchdog clears Lytton RCMP officer in 2020 incident

Suspect who fled on foot from a police traffic stop was later found drowned in the Fraser

B.C.’s police watchdog has said that a Lytton RCMP officer did not play a role in the death of man who was initially stopped for an impaired driving test and fled on foot from police.

The incident began when an officer conducted a traffic stop of the driver one kilometre south of Lytton on Highway 1 at about 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 12 last year. While attempting to administer the impaired driving test, police say the male driver fled on foot across the highway. His body was recovered in the Fraser River near Hope six days later, on Aug. 18.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) was called in to determine if the officer’s actions or inaction played a role in the death of the man. A report released by the IIO on May 13, 2021 said that the man had disappeared into bushes near the highway, and that the officer did not pursue him as it was nighttime, he had no backup, and it was hazardous terrain.

The officer also said that the since the man was in good physical condition and the weather was warm, he had no safety concerns, and assumed the man would go home, as he lived nearby.

When the man was reported missing, several foot searches — assisted by police service dogs — were conducted, but the man was not located. The body found in the Fraser was later confirmed as that of the suspect, and that he had drowned, although the IIO was unable to determine when, where, and why the man entered the river or at what point he drowned.

The report states that while in hindsight it could be questioned whether an earlier search by the officer involved might have found the man before he drowned, the case must be based on what the officer knew at the time and what actions were taken at that time. The report said there were no grounds to believe the man would harm himself or anyone else, and that it was reasonable to believe the man would go home after running away from the traffic stop.

“Sadly, [the suspect] was found deceased six days later,” the report concludes. “There is no evidence to suggest the outcome would have been different had [the officer] searched for him that night. In these circumstances, [the officer’s] actions were reasonable, and do not constitute a marked and substantial departure from the appropriate standard of care.

“Accordingly, as the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, I do not consider that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges.”

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