The provincial Criminal Justice Branch announced today that it has named a special prosecutor in relation to the 2007 Vancouver police shooting death of Paul Boyd.
In a June 25 news release, the branch said that assistant deputy attorney general Joyce DeWitt–Van Oosten, a former Crown prosecutor, appointed Vancouver lawyer Mark Jetté on June 24.
Boyd, an animator who had bipolar disorder, was shot eight times during an 80-second period on the evening of August 13, 2007, by Const. Lee Chipperfield near Granville Street and West 16th Avenue, according to evidence at a coroner’s inquest called after the incident, one of the most shocking police shootings in Vancouver’s history.
Police had responded to a 911 call about a man acting erratically and screaming; some witnesses said Boyd was swinging a bike chain.
The Criminal Justice Branch took more than two years to issue its decision in its review of the investigative report into the shooting. On November 9, 2009, the branch concluded that no charges would be filed as a result of the shooting because there was no substantial likelihood of conviction in the case.
The branch’s decision stated: "An exhaustive review, involving senior prosecutors within the Criminal Justice Branch, has resulted in the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to establish that the officer’s use of force was excessive in the circumstances."
Police said that as a result of a pre-shooting scuffle, one officer received a cut requiring four stitches and another sustained a cut nose and sore shoulder.
At the time, the police complaint commissioner said that Chipperfield had been affected during the incident by "inattentional blindness"; that condition, and conflicting eyewitness accounts of the evening in question, meant there would also be no internal disciplinary action, the commissioner ruled.
In May 2012, however, new evidence in the form of a bystander’s video came to light. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association claimed that the video proved that Boyd was not a threat because he was on his hands and knees, already hit by several bullets, and crawling when Chipperfield fired the final, and fatal, shot to his head.
(Chipperfield had testified at the inquest that he believed Boyd was still armed with the chain and standing almost upright when he fired the final shot; according to evidence and the video, another officer picked up the chain prior to the fatal bullet being fired.)
As a result of the new evidence, then–B.C. attorney general Shirley Bond sent the case for external review to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which usually handles Alberta cases of injury or death involving police.
The Criminal Justice Branch stated in the latest release that it received the final ASIRT report today (June 25). The branch also stated: "No further information can be released at this time, and no additional public comment will be made by the Branch or the Special Prosecutor until such time as Mr. Jetté’s charge assessment has been completed."
The case will be the first high-profile challenge for new Minister of Justice and Attorney General Suzanne Anton. Premier Christy Clark appointed Anton, a former Crown prosecutor, to the position on June 7 after the former city councillor and Vancouver mayoral candidate won election on May 14 as a B.C. Liberal MLA in the riding of Vancouver-Fraserview.
The Boyd shooting six years ago occurred the day before current Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu’s first day on the job. When the new evidence surfaced, Chu said in a statement that he was "very disturbed by the video. It was very troubling to see that." He promised "appropriate" action taken "without delay" if any new reviews provided sufficient evidence to lay charges.