The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) is asking crown counsel to consider charges against three officers involved in the July 8, 2021 shooting of a Wet’suwet’en man in Campbell River.
A decision is pending regarding a fourth officer involved in the incident.
Jared Lowndes, 38, was killed in a police-involved incident in the parking lot of the Willow Point Tim Hortons in Campbell River. During the incident, a police dog was also killed and the dog’s RCMP handler was injured.
According to a press release from the IIO, at about 5:30 a.m. on July 8, 2021, an officer attempted to check a parked vehicle, a blue Audi. The Audi drove away and there was contact between it and the police vehicle. The officer did not pursue at the time but told other RCMP members of the incident.
Later, at 9 a.m., the police located the vehicle again. Officers stopped the Audi in the Tim Hortons drive thru.
“During the interaction that followed, shots were fired by police, and the man was subsequently pronounced deceased,” the release says.
The IIO is not releasing further details of the interaction, saying it could “prejudice a potential prosecution.”
However, IIO Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. MacDonald determined that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that three officers may have committed offences in relation to various uses of force.”
The IIO is preparing a report to be submitted to BC Prosecution Service for consideration of charges in the coming months.
From there, the BC Prosecution Service can approve charges if they are “satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the IIO, and that prosecution be required in the public interest.”
Lowndes’ family and the Pivot Legal Society held a press conference in Vancouver at 4 p.m. after being informed of the IIO’s decision by Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald.
“This is the beginning of a fight that’s going to last a long time,” said Laura Holland, Lowndes’ mother at the conference. “It’s time to stop killing us. We are people too.”
During the conference, Holland and supporters pledged to continue putting pressure on the crown in regards to this matter and future violence towards Indigenous, Black and other racialized groups in Canada.
“It is time for police officers to be held accountable for the unnecessary use of force that too often results in the death of Indigenous community members,” said a release from Pivot. “In the 16 months since Jared’s death, there have been 74 reported incidents of in-custody deaths in B.C. alone.”
The IIO’s 2021-2022 annual report, which comes out at the end of March each year, says “Indigenous Peoples are over-represented in IIO investigations,” representing 28 per cent of people who self-identified their ethnicity, though Indigenous Peoples only represent six per cent of the province’s population.
“We will not stop making noise until this racist system is reversed,” said Meenakshi Mannoe from the Pivot Legal Society. “This IIO decision is not the same as Justice for Jared… but this brings us one step closer to denouncing this racist system.”
In 2021-2022, there were 12 cases referred to crown counsel for consideration of charges. That number has risen from six in 2019-2020, to eight the following year to 12 this year.