Vancouver police officers won’t be charged over unarmed man’s 2015 death

More than five years after Myles Gray died in a confrontation with seven Vancouver police officers, his family has learned that none of the officers involved will face charges in his death.

Crown counsel visited Gray’s mother, Margie Reed, on Wednesday morning and told her that no charges will be laid in connection with Gray’s death in a Burnaby, B.C., backyard on Aug. 13, 2015, Reed told CBC.

The B.C. Prosecution Service confirmed the news in a statement on Wednesday, saying the evidence does not meet its standards for charge approval, which require a “substantial likelihood of conviction.”

“The only witnesses to the physical altercation and restraint of Mr. Gray by the police were the attending members of the VPD. Based on the evidence available, the BCPS is not able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officers committed any offence in relation to the incident,” the statement read.

The prosecution service has provided a lengthy statement on the decision not to charge anyone. 

It explains that because of contradictions between the statements of the officers involved and an inability to pinpoint the exact cause of death, prosecutors have not been able to establish a clear picture of what happened and therefore do not believe they can prove any of the officers committed manslaughter or assault.

Gray was unarmed when he died in a confrontation with seven Vancouver police officers in a Burnaby, B.C., backyard on Aug. 13, 2015.

Gray, the 33-year-old owner of a wholesale florist business in Sechelt, B.C., suffered a long list of injuries in his encounter with seven Vancouver officers. He was unarmed at the time.

Gray was in the Lower Mainland to make a delivery to a customer in Burnaby at the time of the confrontation, according to the prosecution service. Police were called when a resident of a home on South East Marine Drive reported that Gray had taken a garden hose from his mother and sprayed her — the mother said he was speaking “gibberish” at the time.

“While all officers describe Mr. Gray as resisting and offering a threat to the officers present, accounts of what he and the officers actually did at each stage of the encounter vary considerably,” the statement says.

“In many respects, the contradictions between officers’ accounts in key areas are incapable of resolution such that it is difficult to determine a coherent narrative of events.”

Multiple possible causes of death

The altercation that ended Gray’s life took place in a backyard on Joffre Avenue in Burnaby. 

Toxicology evidence revealed that Gray had consumed a substance called Mitragynine — more commonly known as Kratom — before his death. The substance is an herbal supplement that can be used as a stimulant or sedative, and it can also have mind-altering effects.

According to the prosecution service, Gray’s injuries included a fractured orbital eye socket, broken voice box, localized brain bleeding, broken nose, bruising and cuts to the face, bruising to the muscles of his neck, hemorrhaged testicles, a broken rib, partial possible dislocation of the jaw and bruising on numerous other areas of his body.

Gray is shown shortly before his August 2015 death. (Margie Reed)

Gray’s hands and feet were bound in handcuffs and a hobble at the time of his death.

The prosecution service says he was subjected to numerous kinds of force by the officers involved as he went in and out of consciousness, including “the use of pepper spray; repeated baton strikes to the legs and lower body; neck and head restraint; foot, knee and closed fist strikes to the back and upper body; and closed fist strikes to the head and face.” 

Some of the officers involved suffered minor injuries in the fight. 

“Medical records note that one officer had been punched in the left side of his face and had a small cut under his chin. Another officer was noted to have a 5 cm laceration to his forehead, apparently caused by a low-hanging tree branch,” the prosecution service said.

A forensic autopsy revealed nine possible causes of death, including suffocation, pressure to the neck, respiratory issues caused by the pepper spray, pain, anxiety, Kratom toxicity, “excited delirium,” a pre-existing heart condition or other injuries.

Unco-operative officers delayed watchdog investigation

The decision not to charge anyone comes nearly two years after Crown prosecutors began considering the evidence gathered by B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) in its investigation of the case. 

The investigation was stalled for months because of a dispute with Vancouver officers over their duty to co-operate with the police oversight agency.

An officer who witnessed Gray’s death, Const. Hardeep Sahota, refused numerous requests from the watchdog to sit for a second interview with investigators, according to a court petition filed by the IIO.

It was only after that petition was filed that Sahota agreed to sit for a second interview. 

The investigation was also complicated by the fact that Gray’s injuries were so extensive. B.C.’s coroner had to call in experts from outside the province to assist with the investigation in an attempt to determine exactly how he died.

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