New details on VPD officers facing possible dismissal in death of Myles Gray

Click to play video: 'New details on Vancouver police officers in Myles Gray case'
New details on Vancouver police officers in Myles Gray case
As seven Vancouver police officers now face the prospect of dismissal from the force in connection to the death of Myles Gray, we've learned several of the officers involved are facing legal proceedings in other unrelated cases. Sarah MacDonald reports. – Mar 14, 2023

Seven Vancouver police officers now face the prospect of dismissal from the force in connection to the death of Myles Gray, and several of the officers implicated are no stranger to the province’s police watchdog.

One of the officers is currently facing a criminal trial for assault, while another has been named in a civil suit in connection with the high-profile death of Vancouver police Const. Nicole Chan.

Myles Gray died after an altercation with police in a back yard on the Vancouver-Burnaby boundary on Aug. 13, 2015.

A probe by the Independent Investigations Office determined there were grounds to believe some officers may have committed offences in the matter, but Crown prosecutors declined to press charges.

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However, a separate Police Act investigation ordered by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner determined last month that seven of the nine officers who were present may have committed abuse of authority by using excessive force, and six of them may have committed dereliction of duty for failing to complete required notes and reports in the matter.

Constables Beau Spencer, Hardeep Sahota, Josh Wong, Kory Folkestad, Nick Thompson, Derek Cain and Eric Birzneck could face a range of discipline “up to, and including, dismissal from the Vancouver Police Department,” the OPCC report states.

All of the officers with the exception of Birzneck also face the allegation of neglect of duty.

Click to play video: '7 Vancouver police officers could face suspension, dismissal in death of Myles Gray'
7 Vancouver police officers could face suspension, dismissal in death of Myles Gray

The names of some of those constables may sound familiar.

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Most recently, Derek Cain was named along with several officers and the Vancouver Police Board in a civil suit over the death of Const. Nicole Chan, who died by suicide in 2019.

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Cain’s name was spelled incorrectly in a notice of civil claim, which alleges he and Chan began a sexual relationship in 2015 that lasted a year and a half.

The lawsuit alleges Chan approached Cain about the prospect of joining the force’s emergency response team, and claims Cain soon began sending her sexually-charged text messages, before a physical relationship began.

It further alleges Cain did not disclose the relationship to his employer and discouraged Chan from doing so, too. None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the civil case has yet to move to trial.

Click to play video: 'Public inquest set into death of Myles Gray'
Public inquest set into death of Myles Gray

Const. Beau Spencer has also been named in other high-profile police incidents in recent years.

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He is due in court in September to face a criminal assault charge connected to the arrest of a cyclist who sustained serious injuries at a Vancouver SkyTrain station in 2017.

Spencer, along with Const. Josh Wong and Const. Derek Cain, testified at the recent coroner’s inquest into the shooting death of Daniel Rintoul.

All three officers were present when Rintoul was fatally shot by police outside an East Vancouver Canadian Tire in 2016. Rintoul had stabbed an employee, attempted to steal a gun and took a hostage inside the store.

He then stabbed another responding officer who was attempting to arrest him outside the building. All of the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing in that case, with the IIO finding the use of force justified.

“Just because a person might be involved in more than one investigation, doesn’t necessarily mean there is something to be taken from that. Although, it may be a reason to ask some questions and look more carefully,” IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald told Global News.

MacDonald acknowledged it is not common to see a general duty officer’s name appear repeatedly in multiple police watchdog investigations, though said there are exceptions.

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“For certain officers, such as dog masters or members of the emergency response team, it is not uncommon to see them come up in more than one investigation, given the nature of their duties.”

In an email, Vancouver police spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin said the force was aware of the OPCC investigation’s findings, and was awaiting the outcome of the process.

In Gray’s case, police were responding to reports of an agitated man allegedly spraying a neighbourhood resident with a hose and confronting her over watering her lawn during a drought.

Police were the only witnesses to the altercation that left him dead.

The extent of Gray’s injuries were such that no cause of death was ever confirmed. An autopsy revealed he had suffered a rupture testicle, a fractured voice box, a broken nose, sternum and eye socket and a dislocated jaw, according to prosecutors.

It also determined Gray had ingested Mitragynine, a substance commonly known as “Kratom,” and couldn’t rule out the possibility he had died solely due to factors unrelated to police use of force, including the use of Kratom or the condition known as “excited delirium.”

A disciplinary hearing for the seven officers is now scheduled for April, the same month as a coroner’s inquest into his death.

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“I see somebody has recognized wrongdoing here, and to the scope of their capability has recommended dismissal. So that, to me, means something,” Gray’s mother Margie Gray told Global News.

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