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Week 2 of Victoria hearing into police-involved death begins

Officer who shot 43-year-old Lisa Rauch with anti-riot weapon to testify late this week
Lisa Rauch died after a standoff with police that ended up with anti-riot ammunition being deployed. Week two of a public hearing into the conduct of the officer who took the shot began on April 29. (Photo Courtesy Rauch Family)

The second week of the public hearing looking into police conduct in the 2019 death of 43-year-old Lisa Rauch began with a disagreement.

The argument was between counsel over whether to admit into evidence reasoning behind the conclusions of previous investigations that had cleared the central officer involved of wrongdoing.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) hearing is being held in Victoria at the request of Rauch’s family. It follows investigations by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. and the OPCC into the incident that led to officer Ron Kirkwood shooting Rauch.

Rauch had holed up that Christmas Day afternoon in a supportive housing unit on Pandora Avenue, allegedly high on methamphetamine and wielding a knife. The unit did not belong to her, and the rightful occupant had called police.

She died after being hit with rounds from an Anti-Riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN) rifle, which is generally deployed by police as a non-lethal force option.

Kevin Woodall, Kirkwood’s counsel, began day five on Monday, April 29, by arguing to admit as evidence the decisions from those previous investigations.

Woodall said hearing adjudicator Wally Oppel — a former B.C. Supreme Court justice — should be able to consider how those decisions were reached and “may find the reasoning compelling.”

Those investigations concluded his client did not neglect his duty by following legal advice in limiting his written statements after the incident and did not abuse his authority in his use of force. Kirkwood had declined to complete required notes after the incident at the advice of legal counsel, who told him the notes could be used against him were he to be charged with manslaughter.

Public hearing counsel Brad Hickford, who operates similarly to a crown counsel in this case, and Chris Considine, counsel for the OPCC, both opposed allowing these prior decisions being considered as evidence, arguing Oppal is supposed to come to his own conclusions based on the arguments and evidence presented at the hearing.

Considine argued those prior decisions were not made after witness cross-examination and the admittance of evidence, and thereby are not comparable.

Oppal has not yet decided if he will allow the prior decisions to be admitted.

The session also included testimony from the commanding officer at the scene and from the detective who was called to investigate after Rauch had been taken to the hospital.

Louise Neil, a now-retired Victoria police sergeant was in command at the scene when Kirkwood fired the anti-riot weapon that killed Rauch. Neil was also in charge the evening prior to the incident, and was able to testify about Rauch’s arrest that night for causing a disturbance in the building next door. Rauch had allegedly threatened police, saying she would “slit their throats” before being arrested.

Rauch was released the next morning once she was “sober enough to make some better decisions,” Neil testified.

She also added a notable observation about Kirkwood’s demeanor after the shooting.

“I was just shocked at how devastated and traumatized he looked,” Neil said.

This week will also likely see testimony from the supervisor of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team, which responded on that day, testimony from an expert on the use of force, and an appearance on the stand by the officer who took the shot.

Evidence and witness testimony will conclude next week, but the hearing will likely need to reconvene in a month or two for closing arguments. A decision is not expected for several months, according to counsel for the police officer involved.

READ MORE: Hearing into woman’s death details drug use, standoff with Victoria police

About the Author: Mark Page

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