It has been almost a year since Maple Ridge resident Kyaw Naing Din was shot and killed by an RCMP officer, and a lawyer for the victim’s family says the investigation is taking too long.
“I am representing the family, and we have been waiting very patiently, for far too long, for the Independent Investigations Office to complete its investigation,” said Neil Chantler, a Gastown-based lawyer who handles police civil liability cases.
“The public needs to see justice concluded in an efficient and timely manner,” he asserted.
Three weeks from the anniversary of the shooting on Aug. 11, Chantler said he has been told to expect a decision soon. He said the family hopes the matter is referred to Crown counsel, and criminal charges recommended against the officer or officers who did the shooting. If not, they will press for a coroner’s inquest to determine what happened.
“The family deserves an inquest in this case,” he said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions in this case.”
The family wants to know why police entered Din’s room “with such urgency.” Why was he soon tasered, and ultimately shot three times?
The 54-year-old Burmese man lived on Colemore Street with his sister Yin Yin Hla Ma and his brother Min Aung. They came to Canada as adults, and Din had limited English. His family said he suffered from schizophrenia, and his siblings had called RCMP to take him to hospital on occasion.
An IIO press release at the time of the incident said the deceased had a knife.
“RCMP reported that on August 11, 2019 at approximately 1.10 p.m., officers entered a residence in response to a domestic complaint in the 12400 block of Colemore Street, Maple Ridge. It was reported that a male at the scene had a knife.
“It is reported that there was an interaction with police and an officer discharged his firearm resulting in injuries to a male.”
More generally, Chantler said the public needs to know why police respond to calls of mental health distress “the way they are,” and can even ask why they respond to such calls at all.
The Alliance Against Displacement held a rally in Maple Ridge in October, to call for murder charges against the officer who fired the shots, and for police to stop attending mental health calls.
The family has not made a decision whether to file a civil claim, he said.
Ronald MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the IIO, said he would prefer to see shooting death investigations completed in a window of nine to 12 months, and that is typical for cases across Canada.
He said the investigation is very close to completion.
Once he has received a written report, he will meet with the investigative team, and he alone will decide whether to refer the matter for consideration of criminal charges.
MacDonald said the investigation was delayed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which had investigators doing more work via computer.
“It took us a little while to figure out the efficiencies of working in this kind of world,” he said.
Prior to COVID-19, investigation time was speeding up. The average file was cleared in 84 days in the 2017-18 fiscal year, dropped to 64 days in 2018-19 and now sits at about 40 days for 2019-20.
“This one is a shooting death case, and we want to conduct a very thorough investigation,” he said, adding there were many people to speak with, and autopsy and forensic reports to be done.
MacDonald said his office does not need more resources – the IIO has three investigative teams of 10 officers. However, he has had a difficult time keeping his teams fully staffed with qualified investigators.