Crown declines to prosecute RCMP officers who killed man in 2021

The BC Prosecution Service announced Tuesday that it is not pursuing charges against RCMP officers who shot and killed an Indigenous man in Campbell River, BC, in 2021.

Jared Lowndes, a man from the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northern BC, was shot and killed in a Tim Hortons parking lot on July 8, 2021.

The province’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, had asked the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) last year to consider charges against three RCMP officers who were involved in Lowndes’s death.

However, the Crown declined to pursue charges against the officers on Tuesday, saying that the BCPS was unable to prove the officers “committed any offense in relation to the incident” beyond a reasonable doubt.

The news came as an outrage for Lowndes’s family and supporters, who say that the criminal justice system continues to protect police officers who wrongfully kill Indigenous people.

WATCH | Laura Holland says justice system protects police over Indigenous people:

Mother of Wet’suwet’en man killed by RCMP vows to continue fighting

Laura Holland, the mother of Jared Lowndes, says the Canadian justice system continues to protect police officers who wrongfully kill Indigenous people. Her son de ella, a member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, was shot dead by police in Campbell River, BC, in 2021, and the Crown announced Tuesday that no charges have been approved against the 3 officers involved in the fatal shooting .

“It’s time for Canada to stop protecting their gunmen who have been slaughtering our people for decades, centuries, since contact,” said Laura Holland, Lowndes’s mother, at a Tuesday news conference.

“Instead of rewarding them with promotions and addressing them as rising stars, address them for who and what they are — murderers.”

Lowndes was killed after being shot twice in the back, according to a BCPS statement, following a police chase that ended in a drive-thru parking lot.

People show their support for Laura Holland, mother of Jared Lowndes, during a press conference in Vancouver in December 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The 38-year-old man, of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s Laksilyu (Small Frog) Clan, was previously described as a dedicated father of two young daughters who had spent time in the foster system as a youth.

Holland had previously told CBC News that his son should not be defined by the last 45 seconds of his life, and said he was a loving and caring man who was involved in the local Indigenous community in Campbell River.

“Can victim support workers give me access to the same money and lawyers that the police have?” she asked reporters. “No. It has been 1,020 days that I have waited to hear what the proposed charges might be, and there are none.”

Police dog killed in confrontation

The BCPS statement lays out its version of a timeline of events that led to Lowndes’s death in July 2021, with officers initially seeking to arrest him on a weapons warrant.

According to the statement, officers from the Campbell River RCMP detachment decided to corner Lowndes in his blue Audi while he was in the Tim Hortons parking lot, after he had earlier sped away from one of the officers.

A number of officers, including a police dog handler, blocked off Lowndes in the parking lot and asked him to surrender — after which he allegedly opened his window, used bear spray on them and attempted to escape.

The police dog handler then took his dog and put it into the open driver window, according to the statement, but Lowndes allegedly stabbed both the dog and officer.

“During this time Mr. Lowndes is heard saying things to the effect of, ‘You’re going to have to f–king kill me,’ and ‘I’m not coming out, just f–king kill me,’ ” the statement reads. “In response, a taser was deployed twice; however, it appeared to have no effect on Mr. Lowndes.”

Shortly after, one officer, called WO1 in the statement, positioned his car to ram into the passenger side of Lowndes’s car, when Lowndes exited the vehicle.

He was then shot at by two officers, one of whom struck him twice in the back. At the same time, WO1 rammed his car into Lowndes’s Audi, likely running him over in the process, according to the statement.

RCMP had earlier expressed “great sadness” about the death of their dog, saying an attack on a service dog is treated similarly to violence against an officer.

Mother wants better access to justice

In its assessment of the officers’ behavior, the BCPS says prosecutors would be unable to prove that the officers’ decision to use lethal force on Lowndes was not justified.

It says that evidence supports a reasonable belief that Lowndes provided a risk of death or serious bodily harm to both the arresting officers and the public in the Tim Hortons parking lot.

“While there are exceptionally few scenarios in which it would be an appropriate and proportionate response to deploy a police dog into a vehicle, the Crown would be unable to provide that [the dog handler’s] decision was unreasonable in the unique threat matrix faced by the officers during this arrest,” the BCPS statement reads.

A sign reading 'Justice for Jared' with an eagle, and text reading 'Disarm, defund, dismantle police for a kinder, safer future'.
Laura Holland, the mother of Jared Lowndes, has pledged to continue fighting for justice on behalf of her son. (Emma Djwa/CBC)

Lawyer Neil Chantler, who represents Holland, says there is a lot that the public doesn’t know yet about Lowndes’s death.

“If not this case, it’s hard to imagine a case meeting the charge approval standard,” Chantler said. “This was a case that we all thought clearly met that standard from the outside and that would see a trial.”

Holland, who is in the process of suing Campbell River RCMP, said she would push for an inquiry of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people in police custody.

“My next step is to burn it all down,” she said. “I’m going to make sure that there are changes to policy and procedure in the Crown’s laws, rules that bind them, and make sure that we have access to justice for the first time in history.”

 
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