Dana Larsen: Killer cops on Vancouver streets

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      Eight Vancouver police officers were involved in beating an unarmed man to death. Five years later, we don't even know their names.

      Myles Gray did not have a criminal record, and was not known to be violent or confrontational.

      The autopsy showed that Gray suffered a broken nose, a dislocated jaw, a fractured voice box, a fractured eye socket, a broken rib, a fractured sternum, and a crushed testicle. Gray had also been pepper-sprayed.

      Gray's injuries were so extensive that the coroner needed a second opinion to try and figure out which of the many wounds was the one that killed him.

      The only known witnesses to what happened are the police officers involved. The names of the officers are not known to the public or to Gray's family, except for one officer who apparently only witnessed the killing.

      Myles Gray was beaten to death on the afternoon of August 13, 2015. He worked as a landscaper and was dropping off flowers to wholesalers in the area near the Vancouver and Burnaby border. While walking by, he saw a woman watering her yard, which was a violation of the bylaw at the time restricting water use in the summer.

      Some kind of confrontation followed and either she or her son called the police.

      One or two officers arrived, and then they called for back-up. More officers showed up, pursued Gray, pepper-sprayed him, and then he died. Gray's face had been beaten so severely that his family was unable to have an open-casket funeral.

      Police accused of cover-up

      On the day of his death, the VPD issued a news release stating that six officers were taken to hospital with injuries, with two of them "significant".

      If there was a justification for beating Gray to death, we haven't heard anything from the police since then. Instead, officers are being accused of not keeping notes, not filing evidence, and conspiring to mislead the Independent Investigations Office (IIO).

      The IIO had to go to the Supreme Court to get Const. Hardeep Sahota, who witnessed Gray's killing at the hands of her fellow officers, to sit for an interview.

      Const. Sahota was the first officer on the scene according to the IIO petition. She is the one who called for back-up. She saw exactly what happened when Myles Gray was beaten to death.

      Sahota joined the VPD in 2009, and from her online presence she seems like a reasonable person who volunteers in her community. So why is it that Const. Sahota refused an interview with investigators until forced to by the Supreme Court?

      Could Sahota's reluctance to testify be related to the intense harassment suffered by many women in the Vancouver Police Department? In 2018, dozens of VPD officers claimed they had been harassed at work, according to the Vancouver Courier

      Some female officers reported being barraged with porn and graphic messages by male officers. One female officer told CTV News that she was sexually harassed by superiors and then told to "eat your gun" when she tried to complain. Another officer committed suicide last year, after having her complaints of being exploited and sexually manipulated by senior officers put off for over a year.

      In that kind of climate of fear and intimidation from senior officers, it's feasible that a female officer might be reluctant to testify against fellow cops, no matter what they did.

      Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by Gray's family claims that none of the officers involved kept any notes about their interaction with Myles Gray, which is contrary to VPD policy.

      The lawsuit also claims that seven of the officers didn't even submit evidence pages to the police database until at least five months after Gray was killed. In addition, lawsuit alleges that the VPD officers initially responsible for investigating the actions of their fellow officers deliberately interfered with the Independent Investigations Office and illegally conferred with the involved officers to get their stories straight.

      "We are suing to get at least the names of the VPD who are responsible for beating Myles to death," says a post on the Justice For Myles Gray Facebook page.

      The suit names the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department as defendants. In an initial response from the city in 2016, lawyers claimed the VPD cannot be sued, and that the City is not responsible for supervising the police.

      The city also said it would provide the names of the officers involved after the IIO had concluded its investigation. But it's now 18 months after the investigation ended, and the names have still not been released.

      A peaceful man

      Gray's friends and family describe him as a peaceful, friendly, and happy man who avoided fights and confrontations.

      “Myles was a real gentle guy,” his father Mark told the Vancouver Sun. “He’d never been in a fight in his life."

      Police will often use a positive drug test as justification for their violence, claiming that a victim must have been high and acting aggressively. Yet Gray's toxicology report showed no drugs in Gray's system.

      “He had nothing in his system," Gray's mother Margie told the Coast Reporter. "But whether the police were on any drugs we’ll never know, because they didn’t have to give any samples.”

      Independent Investigations Office

      Officers still on the street

      In January 2019, three-and-a-half years after Myles Gray was beaten to death, the Independent Investigations Office finally filed a report to the B.C. Prosecution Service.

      The IIO said there's enough evidence to potentially justify charges against police, but it's up to Crown prosecutors to decide if charges actually get laid.

      A year and a half later, and a full five years after Myles Gray was killed, and still nothing has happened.

      There has been no public inquiry.

      No charges have been laid.

      All of the officers who beat Myles Gray to death are presumably still on duty and on the streets.

      Not one of their names is known to the public.