As the latest victim of of a fatal shooting by Vancouver police is identified, people are rightly questioning why our police even drew a gun on the man.
Yes, he was holding a two-by-four, but no accounts suggest he ever threatened anyone. And an eyewitness account says he was no threat when police shot him.
Unfortunately, Saturday’s shooting appears to be part of a 21st century trend in Canadian law enforcement to “shoot first and ask questions later”.
We need to find out why police in Vancouver and across most of Canada are killing more people than ever before.
The terrible optics of "gun versus 2×4"
According to press reports, the B.C. Coroners Service said in a statement on Monday (November 24) that 51-year-old Phuong Na (Tony) Du of Vancouver was shot “during an encounter” with Vancouver police. The incident took place at approximately 5 p.m. on November 22 near the intersection of Knight Street and East 41st Avenue.
The man “died soon after arrival at hospital”, according to the statement.
The fact that has gripped everyone’s attention is that Du was armed with nothing more than a than a length of wooden two-by-four.
An eyewitness statement published by CTV News paints a hurried sequence of events.
- Police arrive
- The man walks towards them brandishing the two-by-four
- An officer fires two shots at the man from a non-lethal bean-bag gun
- The man ends up (apparently still standing) in the middle of the intersection
- One officer uses his gun to shoot the man
- The man falls and stays down
The witness said that the man didn’t appear to be much of a threat and that police fired on him right away.
Constable Brian Montague told CTV News that a two-by-four could be considered a weapon that can cause life-altering injury or death.
British Columbia’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, and the B.C. Coroners Service are conducting an investigation of the fatal shooting.
Canadian police increasingly shoot to kill
According to Wikipedia’s list of killings by law enforcement officers in Canada, in the last 82 years, Canadian police officers have shot and killed no less than 75 people in the line of duty.
Ontario leads all provinces with 35 killings and British Columbia is second with 13. Quebec at 11 is the only other province to record double-digit killings by police. With the exception of one in New Brunswick, the Maritime provinces have never recorded a death by police officer, according to the Wikipedia collation at least.
The striking fact in the numbers is how dramatically police killings in Canada have increased since the year 2000.
With the exception of Saskatchewan, the majority of all fatal shootings by police in Canada since 1932 have occurred in the last 14 years, since the year 2000.
An average of 58 percent of the killings have occurred in only 17 percent of the time period.
Of the 13 total deaths Wikipedia records for British Columbia, over 69 percent of them (nine) have occurred since the year 2000. And actually it’s 76.9 if you include the shooting death by Vancouver police on Saturday.