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Use of Force Reasonable in Fatal RCMP Shooting of B.C.’s Dani Cooper: Watchdog

Use of force by the RCMP officer who fatally shot a person in mental distress last fall was reasonable, with no reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence occurred, B.C.’s police watchdog has found.

“This call, while it involved a person clearly suffering from a mental health crisis, was not a ‘wellness call,’ but in fact, several calls for help to police for protection from a person who was threatening to stab them,” wrote IIO chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald in the report.

Cooper’s family was frustrated with the finding, arguing that while Cooper held a knife, responding officers made little to no effort to de-escalate the situation before Tasering the 27-year-old and subsequently shooting them. Cooper, the family noted, also stood at just over five feet tall and weighed 110 pounds.

“There’s a difference between what’s legal and what’s reasonable, and the IIO was constructed to respond to, was the construct of force that was applied, applied in a legal way or not? It’s not a question of whether they could or couldn’t do anything differently,” Cooper’s father, Dennis Cooper, told Global News.

“We were more than a little disappointed with the way Dani was portrayed in the report. They were portrayed as a danger to society and all the people around them, and the police really had no choice but to affect that level of response. We still contend that’s not the case.”

According to the IIO report, Cooper tried to attack a person in their shared residence with a knife around 7:32 p.m. that evening. A 911 call-taker was told that Cooper was “psychotic and was suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.”

When the witness fought back and wrestled a knife away, Cooper walked into the kitchen and grabbed another one. The witness fled the residence and called 911 again, the report stated.

Cooper is then said to have entered a neighbouring unit of the building without warning or permission, looking for their mother. According to the report, as a resident of that unit escorted Cooper out, they pulled a knife out of their jacket and pointed it toward the resident.

The resident locked themselves inside the unit and called 911.

Cooper entered a third unit in the complex uninvited but was pushed out and down the stairs by an adult resident, who had seen Cooper with a knife, the report stated. That person also called 911.

Cooper then returned to the unit where they had sought their mother, reportedly jumping the fence and attempting to reenter through the patio door. After Cooper stopped kicking the patio door, the witness inside the home saw Cooper stab themselves multiple times in the abdomen, according to the report.

Around 7:44 p.m., two police officers arrived and found Cooper outside the patio area. They remained outside the area so that a fence remained between them and Cooper, the report stated.

Two witnesses heard the officers telling Cooper to drop the knife and come out of the fenced area, or risk being Tasered. One of them, however, told the watchdog that Cooper saw her, “but it almost felt like (they were) just kind of looking through me, like not really registering anything that was going on.”

Cooper was Tasered to no effect. The deployment was later determined not to have been successful, according to the IIO.

More police officers arrived, one noting that Cooper did not appear “to register” their words. Cooper then walked toward officers from inside the fenced patio area and was Tasered again — ineffectually — as they climbed the fence.

Police officers back away, the report stated. Cooper was not running or walking quickly, one officer noted: “I would say it was almost like a shuffle, a sort of shambling shuffle, a small step.”

Source : Global News