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Officer who killed Maple Ridge man during mental health call was only 7 months on job

Const. Matthew Wagner fired three shots that killed Kyaw Din in 2019
Yin Yin Din holds a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, on a trip to Victoria when Kyaw was only 34-years-old. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

The police officer who fired the shots that killed a Maple Ridge man during a mental health call in 2019 took the stand at a coroner’s inquest on Thursday.

Const. Matthew Wagner had only been seven months on the job when he entered the bedroom of Kyaw Naing Din, an immigrant from Myanmar, and fired three shots, killing the 54-year-old in the family home he shared with his siblings on Colemore Street.

Kyaw had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and had been frequently taken to hospital by police before the fatal event on Aug. 11, 2019.

Wagner testified at the inquest that after talking with Const. Daniel Losiak, the first officer on the scene, they both determined that they couldn’t leave because there was a threat of violence.

Yin Yin Din, Kyaw’s sister, had mentioned to the dispatcher on a 911 call that her brother had threatened to hit her, that he was also confused, believing she was a strange Japanese woman, and not his sibling.

“Whenever there is a threat of violence, without interaction with the person, to be able to see them, to confirm their well-being or anything like that, we can’t leave,” he told the inquest’s presiding coroner and jury on Mar. 3.

However, the Din family lawyer, Neil Chantler, told Wagner when Din was on the phone with dispatch she was clear she did not actually fear for her safety.

“Did you receive that information,” he asked Wagner.

“I don’t recall receiving that information,” Wagner replied.

Chantler also asked him if Const. Losiak told him there was a real threat and the sister was fearful, Wagner, again, said he couldn’t recall.

“I just know there was a threat of an assault,” he said.

Chantler put it to Wagner that at no time during the course of Yin Yin’s interactions did she mention that she was fearful for the safety of herself or her brother.

Again Wagner answered, “Not that I can recall”.

When asked about Yin Yin not wanting police going into Kyaw’s bedroom, Wagner responded that she seemed “concerned” about police entering the bedroom.

“For what reason, I don’t know,” he said.

“Well, she knew her brother. She knew what state he was in. She had been communicating with him. And she knew he wasn’t going to respond well to the presence of police officers. He didn’t want you there. And she told you that,” said Chantler.

“That’s correct, isn’t it,” he pressed.

“I would say that she did not want us to go in the bedroom,” Wagner stated.

Chantler also put it to Wagner that he knew there was a very real possibility that they would create a situation by entering Kyaw’s room, where police would have to respond with violence.

“We knew that there was a possibility that an altercation could occur, but it’s been my experience that oftentimes when people see police, they also do calm down,” Wagner replied.

Wagner said it was Cpl. Shayne Shea, a person he described as the scene supervisor, who made the decision to enter the room, a decision he agreed with. At first, Wagner explained, he was holding his handcuffs, but Shea told him to put them away.

When entering, Wagner said, Const. Benjamin Ouellette fired a taser from outside the room before the officers made entry. Kyaw fell down in a chair in the middle of the room before reaching for a knife with a two to three inch blade, on a bed to his right.

Wagner said he was not assigned to a lethal overwatch position and only drew his firearm after entering Kyaw’s room when Kyaw was slashing a knife at Const. Ouellette. Wagner said he was holding his gun with his left hand and pushed Ouellette with his right hand to his left side before firing.

“I always aim at the centre mass as per my training, which is the centre upper torso of the body,” said Wagner.

READ MORE: Coroner’s inquest begins for Maple Ridge man fatally shot by police

However, Chantler said, one bullet struck Kyaw’s right shoulder, one entered his left cheek, and one entered near the top of Kyaw’s head on the left side.

Wagner said after the shooting Shea told him to go outside. He was then taken by another officer to the Ridge Meadows detachment to be interviewed by the Independent Investigations Office. However, he elected not to give a statement about the events that occurred.

When Chantler asked him why he didn’t give a statement, Wagner replied, “Because it’s my charter rights not to provide a statement if I don’t want to.”

“Didn’t you want people to know what had happened,” asked Chantler.

“I obtained counsel and I followed the direction of my counsel,” Wagner stated.

READ ALSO: First cop on scene of fatal Maple Ridge police shooting testifies at inquest

Wagner is currently an operational member with the Ridge Meadows RCMP.

Presiding coroner Donita Kuzma and a jury are hearing evidence from witnesses under oath to determine the facts surrounding the death. The jury will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances, but not to make any finding of legal responsibility or express any conclusion of law.

Under the Coroners Act, inquests are mandatory when a person dies while detained by, or in the custody of, a peace officer.

An inquest is a formal process that allows public presentation of evidence relating to a death. The jury will certify the identity of the deceased and how, where, when and by what means death occurred. The inquest is open to the public.

The inquest is scheduled to continue until Tuesday, Mar. 8.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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