The Vancouver police officer involved in the 2014 shooting death of Phuong Na (Tony) Du will not be charged.
The decision came down from Crown on Thursday afternoon and in response, the Pivot Legal Society said they will be challenging the court’s decision.
On Nov. 22, 2014, 51-year-old Du was near 41st Ave. and Knight St., and according to witnesses, was in mental distress when police arrived. Du, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his 20s, was reportedly waving a two-by-four as he walked along Knight Street.
According to a statement from the Vancouver Police Department, Du confronted officers who tried to disarm him using a bean bag gun. Eventually Du was shot and sent to hospital, but did not survive his injuries.
Pivot Legal said the Crown’s decision is pertinent because “the facts in this case, and its subsequent decision, could have major implications for use-of-force protocols used by the Vancouver Police Department, which in turn could impact the health and safety of the public.”
Douglas King, lawyer and police accountability campaigner with Pivot said in a written statement that “the IIO investigation revealed Tony Du was shot by an officer between 18 – 25 seconds after police arrived. The investigation leaves us with a lot of questions on why officers so quickly resorted to deadly force on a man in mental health crisis, who witnesses reported was not presenting as a threat.”
In the Criminal Justice Branch’s (CJB) written statement, which took into account testimony from the police officers involved, eye-witnesses and experts, that the evidence presented did not meet the criteria for approval of any charges in connection with the shooting death.
The officer, who shot Du, said he fired because he feared for the other officer’s life. The CJB statement said the officer “continued firing until the suspect was no longer a threat. He was not sure if the first two rounds had missed as he did not see any change in the suspect’s behaviour until the last round was fired.” At least two of those shots struck Du on his torso, causing him to fall to the ground.
Pivot Legal said they are “extremely concerned about key information missing from the IIO’s investigation” which they say formed the basis of Crown’s decision to not pursue charges. Pivot said the Crown’s statement failed to mention:
- accurate timelines describing the order of events that occurred on the night of November 22, 2014 when Du was shot and killed;
- consideration of the height and weight differential between 51-year-old Du and the police officers who engaged him;
- a description or photograph of the “wooden board” Du was carrying and to what degree it could be considered a weapon; and
- what type of de-escalation training the officers would have received through the mandatory Crisis Intervention Training course, and whether or not that training was followed.
In addition the above information, Pivot is upset with the IIO’s decision to use a retired VPD officer as a “use-of-force expert”. In Pivot opinion this “undermines the independence of the investigation, and was ultimately used by Crown to justify their decision not to charge the man who shot Mr. Du.”
Du’s death caused outrage in the Vietnamese community, who considered the force excessive and held a vigil shortly after the shooting. A vigil organizer said at the time that too many questions remained unanswered about Du’s death, which was investigated by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). Eventually the IIO sent the case to the Crown to consider if charges should be laid in the shooting.
“We are deeply disturbed by the circumstances of Mr. Phuong’s death and the actions of the Vancouver Police Department,” said Chanel Ly in a statement.
At least one witness questioned whether officers needed to use force when dealing with Du.
Joe Tobias managed to videotape most of what happened after the shooting.
“I told the officer, I did not question what they did, I just said it did not have to go this way,” Tobias said following the shooting. “It is so unfortunate that this gentleman could not have been dealt with in some other way.”
Watch: The cell phone video shot by Joe Tobias in the moments after the incident
In addition to today’s ruling, the victim’s mother, Thu An Du filed a lawsuit alleging police negligence in B.C. Supreme Court last November. The lawsuit names the City of Vancouver and the police officer who used his firearm in the shooting.
READ: The full CJB report
~ with files from Yuliya Talmazan and Jon Azpiri