PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – British Columbia’s police watchdog has cleared officers of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of a retired soldier in northern B.C. after reviewing evidence presented in a coroners inquest.
The Independent Investigations Office conducted a supplemental review after a pathologist testified Greg Matters was shot in the back, contrary to what the agency said in a report.
But several civil liberties organizations said a person independent of the agency should conduct a review of the case because of the discrepancy.
The agency responded in the review by saying the difference between the pathologist’s testimony and the agency’s report was caused by unclear language.
The initial report used the word “chest” when referring to the area where Matters was shot, Richard Rosenthal of the agency wrote.
The use of the word incorrectly gave the impression Matters was facing the officer when he was shot, he said.
“I deeply regret the confusion this caused, and will strive to use clearer language in future reports,” Rosenthal wrote in the review.
He said it’s unnecessary to call in another reviewer because there is no new evidence suggesting any of the officers involved in the shooting death of Matters may have committed a criminal offence.
The agency said it won’t refer the case to Crown counsel.
Josh Paterson of the BC Civil Liberties Society said it’s disappointing the agency has taken that approach.
“I think with this kind of an error we thought that an independent review of what happened would have made more sense,” he said in a phone interview.
“We just think it would have been better for there to have been an independent review to bring us to that conclusion,” Paterson said.
Matters, who was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at the time, was shot and killed by RCMP during a standoff in September 2012 outside a home he shared with his mother near Prince George.
Police went to the house to arrest Matters on a charge of assaulting his brother.
Officers said they had no choice but to shoot Matters because he was brandishing a hatchet and approaching an officer who had fallen and could not defend himself.
-By Steven Chua in Vancouver