Shooting a Crawling, Dying, Unarmed Man in the Head Equals Legal?

Two years after the shooting death of Paul Boyd in the middle of Granville Street in Vancouver and the public finally has a decision about criminal charges against involved officers from the Criminal Justice Branch of B.C..

No charges, no trial, file closed.

This predictable outcome places the epic investigation of Mr. Boyd’s death from eight distinct bullet wounds directly in line with every police involved death ever in the history of British Columbia.

No criminal charges. Ever. Files closed.

Put out of your mind the following facts and you may have a chance of reaching the same conclusion as the CJB that the death of Mr. Boyd should not be put before a trial judge because there is no reasonable prospect of conviction for the involved officer. Note that these facts all come from the CJB summary of the incident provided to the media, not from the secret documents and reports that underlie the decision, many of which we may never see.

• Only one police officer, of the many who were on the scene during the incident, discharged a weapon against Mr. Boyd, and some of the involved officers apparently didn’t even deem Mr. Boyd to be a sufficient threat to require unholstering their guns;

• Police and civilian witnesses described the shooting officer as discharging at least four, but possibly five bullets into Mr. Boyd after Mr. Boyd was completely disarmed of his “bicycle chain” and after a fellow officer had yelled at involved officers to “hold their fire;”

• Police and civilian witnesses agree that the eighth and final bullet that hit Mr. Boyd hit him in the head while he was on hands and knees in the middle of the road;

• The shooting officer, whose version of events was given more than considerable weight by the CJB, gave a statement in which that officer said there were only four bullets fired (actual number: nine) and in which the officer said he or she believed Mr. Boyd was wearing body armour (he wasn’t) and standing almost fully upright when he or she shot Mr. Boyd in the head (not true).

Turn your mind away from all of these distracting facts and surely you’ll find yourself in the same position of the Criminal Justice Branch in finding that there was insufficient evidence to justify taking this police officer to trial. By ignoring these facts, you’ll see the obvious, that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction.

Don’t feel badly if you disagree with the CJB on first glance, as their conclusion took them two years of study and the advice of many experts to reach. A member of the public, overreacting to the notion of an unarmed man being gunned down on his hands and knees in the middle of the road at Granville and Broadway does not have the training or the education to be able to see through these confusing facts to the truth that such force is reasonable and not criminal.

To achieve the zen of the CJB about such facts, one must, as a CJB spokesman advised the media, “not focus narrowly on any particular portion of the evidence.”

Good advice, that.
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