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Friday, November 30, 2007

Complaints commissioner rules lethal force necessary in death of Ian Bush

November 30, 2007
The Canadian Press

And this is the man who will lead a nation-wide review of RCMP use of tasers and their use by RCMP officers on Robert Dziekanski?!?! The investigation into the death of Ian Bush was a joke and,if the man who shot him to death had not been an officer in a uniform, he'd be in prison ...

VANCOUVER - The RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner has ruled an officer's use of lethal force was necessary in the death of Ian Bush in Houston, B.C. In a report released Thursday, Commissioner Paul Kennedy also ruled the RCMP's North District Major Crime Unit conducted a "highly professional" investigation into Bush's death.

Earlier this year a coroner's inquest heard that Const. Paul Koester wasn't formally interviewed by police for three months after Bush was killed in October, 2005.

Bush was arrested outside the local hockey rink for giving a false name and 20 minutes later, Koester shot Bush in the head after what the officer said was a struggle for his life.

"After carefully considering the circumstances I conclude that Const. Koester had a reasonable apprehension of death and believed that he could not otherwise preserve himself from death other than to use lethal force," Kennedy said in his report.

"Accordingly, Const. Koester acted in self-defence."

The RCMP came under fire for using its own officers to investigate the controversial incident. But Kennedy endorsed their handling of the case.

"I concluded that the North District major crime unit conducted a highly professional investigation into Mr. Bush's death and exemplified the best practices for major crime investigations," he said.

Kennedy made several recommendations including installing recording equipment in every RCMP detachment where prisoners are handled, and that RCMP develop policy for police investigations involving their own members.

Besides his report on Bush's death, Kennedy also announced another probe into RCMP officers who have investigated fellow officers involved in death or injury cases over a five-year period between April 2002 and March 2007.

Kennedy launched his review in September 2006 into the circumstances surrounding Bush's arrest and death, as well as how the Mounties subsequently handled their investigation of it.

The RCMP investigation, which was reviewed by New Westminster police, concluded that no charges should be laid against the Koester.

A coroner's inquest later recommended only policy changes such as increased surveillance in police detachments to prevent similar deaths in the future. The jury also suggested last July that Mounties should not be alone with suspects at police stations.

The parents of Bush were disappointed by the recommendations and urged better recruitment and training for officers, while saying police should not investigate themselves.

Bush, 22, was arrested outside the Houston, B.C., hockey rink with an open beer in October 2005. Less than an hour later he was dead, lying in a blood-spattered room in the RCMP detachment.

Const. Paul Koester testified he shot the young man in the back of the head in self-defence while the two were alone in an interview room.

The case raised allegations that Koester got preferential treatment, including advance notice of the questions investigators would ask him. Three weeks went by before he gave a written statement to police investigators and it was more than three months before he was interviewed.

At the inquest, a blood-spatter expert disputed the officer's version of the events, saying it wasn't possible for Bush to have been behind Koester trying to choke him when the fatal shot was fired.

Joe Slemko, an Edmonton police officer and private consultant, said the evidence, based on blood patterns, showed the young man had to be under the Mountie.

The inquest also heard that Bush's body was left unrefrigerated in the Houston detachment for at least 24 hours before it was taken to the morgue in Prince George and then on to Kamloops for an autopsy three days later.

The dead man's mother, Linda Bush, has said the family will push ahead with its civil lawsuit against the RCMP and the B.C. solicitor general and Attorney General.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which believes a civilian agency should investigate such cases involving police, is also proceeding with a judicial review.

The release of the report comes amid the controversy over the videotaped death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after he was zapped with a Taser and subdued by RCMP officers at the Vancouver International Airport. The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is also examining that case.

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