Those seeking justice for an Indigenous man who was shot to death by police on Vancouver Island have been handed a small victory Thursday.
The Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia (IIO BC), has opened the door to possible charges for three RCMP officers involved in the death of Jared Lowndes.
In a news release from IIO, it says the Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. MacDonald, “determined that reasonable grounds exist to believe that three officers may have committed offences in relation to various uses of force.”
The office is now preparing a report for the BC Prosecution Service to consider charges.
This comes after Lowndes, a 38-year-old father of two, was shot in July of 2021 in Campbell River.
At the time, the Campbell River RCMP said the events that led up to his death in a Tim Horton’s parking lot began when an officer “attempted to stop a vehicle in relation to an outstanding warrant.” Police say Lowndes didn’t stop, and was eventually “boxed in” by a police cruiser.
“A confrontation occurred between the suspect and the police officer, who had a Police Service Dog. During the interaction, the Police Service Dog was stabbed and killed, and the suspect was shot and was pronounced deceased on scene,” the RCMP said following the incident.
Advocates call for “Justice”
But for the last year-and-a-half, advocates and loved ones have been asking for “Justice for Jared.”
“We knew that everything that they did that day was wrong,” mom Laura Holland said. “This is the beginning of a fight that is going to last a long time.”
In light of his death, and others like it, advocates have been calling for police oversight in the province to be reformed.
“We are going to ask for changes to policies. We’re going to ask for changes to laws, because there have been far too many Indigenous people being shot and killed,” Holland said.
Meghan McDermott with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says “days like this shouldn’t come so rarely.”
“Even now, Jared’s family is going to have to wait for months, if not years, for the Crown to make a decision,” McDermott explained.
While acknowledging the development as a positive, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, says there needs to be greater police accountability.
“There needs to be serious reform of the IIO in terms of holding police officers accountable for shooting people, for maiming and injuring and crippling people,” Phillip said.
The group said in a news release that it is calling on law and policy makers to take action.
“Continued systemic racism in policing, including racial profiling and dangerous stereotypes, leads to disturbing rates of death and injury of Indigenous people in police custody. Until police and oversight agencies acknowledge this crisis, and law and policy-makers take action, distrust and fear will continue to permeate Indigenous peoples’ interactions with the justice system,” it said.
With files from Monika Gul