October 2, 2008
Matthew Claxton, with files from Gerry Bellett and Tim Lai
LANGLEY - RCMP investigators say they have found evidence linking an armed robbery of a bank to a home in a quiet cul-de-sac where a naked, bleeding man crashed through a second-storey window before being Tasered by police.
The 49-year-old man, whose name has not been released, collapsed after being hit by Tasers and died later in hospital.
An autopsy was completed Monday, but the B.C. coroner's service did not release the results. RCMP said the man was known to have been suffering from stab wounds to the chest.
RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen said Wednesday that evidence found outside the home links the residence at 19917 47A Ave. to the Tuesday robbery of a Royal Bank branch in Brookswood.
Investigators located an unloaded shotgun, a replica handgun, and a dye-pack from the property. As well, Thiessen said there is videotape evidence from the bank and witness statements that lead investigators to believe the deceased is the person involved with the armed robbery.
Trina Toffan, the man's 35-year-old spouse, has been charged with one count of armed robbery.
During the robbery, a man armed with a handgun fled with an amount of cash. Asked if it was cash from the robbery that police found, Thiessen declined to say. He also couldn't say if a handgun had been found in the home, which was being searched Wednesday by investigators in anti-contamination suits.
Police had the street closed off.
A couple living in the home are believed to have two children aged 12 and five and were known to neighbours as Frank and Tina. They were renting the house and had moved in on Boxing Day.
The bank robber -- who escaped in a van -- was followed by a witness who led police to the home on 47A Avenue. When police arrived, they heard a man and woman yelling and then a male either fell or jumped through a living room window, landing on the ground below.
Thiessen said he was suffering serious cuts and chest wounds but had not been incapacitated by the fall.
Postal worker Bill Kilsby said he saw most of what then unfolded. He told reporters Wednesday he had earlier delivered mail to the home and saw police cars speeding to the cul-de-sac. Kilsby said he was talking to a man in the neighbourhood who said he had heard something, so the pair ran towards 47A Avenue across a small park. When he got there, he saw a naked man covered in blood with police officers -- their weapons drawn -- yelling at him to get down on the ground. "We saw a man walk out naked and bloody," said Kilsby. He said the man's back, shoulders and neck were covered in blood. Kilsby said the man didn't appear violent. "He appeared to be in his own little world," he said.
The man wasn't obeying police instructions and wandered around in front of officers. The police used a dog to try to subdue him but the dog failed to pull him to the ground.
At that point, the man started walking back toward the house and police used Tasers to knock him down.
He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
"Serious incidents such as these are difficult for everyone involved," said Thiessen. "The officers are also affected by these incidents."
The investigation into the man's death is being handled by the RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and overseen by Vancouver Police officers.
Meanwhile, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP in Ottawa has dispatched an observer to monitor the investigation to ensure its impartiality.
Commission spokesman Nelson Kalid said his agency had not received a complaint about Langley RCMP's handling of the incident, but the commission is conducting a pilot project in B.C. in which RCMP investigations of its own members are monitored by an outside civilian agency.
"We began the project in E Division in March last year and have assigned observers to a number of Taser incidents including the one involving Robert Dziekanski [at Vancouver International Airport]," said Kalid.
Dziekanski died after being Tasered by RCMP officers Oct. 14, 2007 -- an event that led to a provincial inquiry into Taser use by former B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood. The first phase of the inquiry has finished but a second phase is being delayed until the Crown counsel's office decides whether to press charges against the officers involved.
Kalid said the commission's observer won't have any part in the investigation into the Langley man's death but will assess the impartiality of the police in their handling of it and will produce a report that will be made public.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, October 02, 2008
October 2, 2008