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Crime

New Westminster cop who shot suspect armed with a handgun won’t face charges

New Westminster Police are investigating what they are calling a "serious incident" at the Queensborough Landing shopping centre on Jan. 15, 2016.
New Westminster Police are investigating what they are calling a "serious incident" at the Queensborough Landing shopping centre on Jan. 15, 2016. Global News

The BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) says a New Westminster police officer who shot a man near the Queensborough Walmart in 2016 will not face charges.

It happened at the 805 Boyd Street store location on Jan. 15, when police were called to a reported shoplifting in progress.

Witnesses at the time told Global News they saw the suspect pull a gun and flee. The suspect suffered several gunshot wounds and the BC Ambulance Service at the time said it transported one person to hospital in critical condition.

READ MORE: UPDATE: 2 men charged after officer-involved shooting in New Westminster

Nathan McVannell, 32, later pleaded guilty to charges of pointing a firearm and possession of a prohibited firearm and was sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Prosecutors say he suffered gunshot wounds to his left buttock, left patella, soft tissue injury to his right leg, and a laceration to his left leg from which he has since recovered.

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The Independent Investigation Office probed the incident, and produced a report to prosecutors that opened the door for charges against the subject officer (SO) who fired at McVannell.

IIO investigates police-involved shooting in New Westminster
IIO investigates police-involved shooting in New Westminster

But on Thursday, the BCPS said a full review of the evidence found it did meet the standards for charges or the reasonable likelihood of conviction.

According to the BCPS, the SO stopped McVannell outside the Walmart, and attempted to use a taser on him when the interaction escalated into a confrontation.

McVannell fell to the ground, but quickly sat up and produced a silver handgun, according to the BCPS.

READ MORE: IIO investigate police-involved shooting at Surrey’s Gateway Shelter

The SO fired two rounds from his service weapon at that point, and the suspect fled towards the Fraser River, said prosecutors.

During the chase, the SO fired six more times.

Prosecutors say CCTV evidence shows McVannell looking over his shoulder and raising his arm “consistent with waving or pointing his firearm” during that chase, and witnesses told investigators that they heard the officer direct McVannell to drop his weapon.

Eventually, McVannell fell down in a grassy area near the river and was arrested.

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When police seized his gun, it was found to have one round in the chamber. A loaded magazine was also found along the route of the chase, said the BCPS. The suspect’s gun was not fired during the incident.

READ MORE: Police watchdog investigating fatal officer-involved shooting in Maple Ridge

Prosecutors consulted a use of force expert, who they say determined the circumstances justified the SO’s decision to fire the initial two rounds, and that given there were no bystanders in the line of fire, the officer’s actions were “generally appropriate under the circumstances.”

The expert also concluded letting the suspect escape with a handgun would have been unreasonable.

Prosecutors determined that during the chase, based on how McVannell handled the handgun, the officer had reason to believe his life was in danger.