Closing submissions on VicPD officer’s use of force in fatal 2019 shooting heard

Closing submissions on VicPD officer's use of force in fatal 2019 shooting heard
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Closing submissions were made Wednesday in the public hearing into the actions of a Victoria Police officer who killed 43-year-old Lisa Rauch on Christmas Day 2019. Sgt. Ron Kirkwood is facing two allegations of misconduct related to Rauch’s death.

On Wednesday, lawyers wrapped their closing remarks with regards to Kirkwood’s use of force.

The hearing has taken two months just to get to this point and it’s only partially finished. On Wednesday, July 10, the allegation of misconduct in relation to use of force was heard. Kirkwood fired three ARWEN rounds into a smoky room, hitting Rauch in the back of the head in 2019.

Rauch died four days later from blunt force head injuries.

An ARWEN is considered a ‘less lethal weapon’ that fires plastic projectiles designed to incapacitate a person. It’s supposed to be fired at the torso when officers have a clear line of sight.

Watch the full story below:

What happened

On December 25, 2019 Victoria Police were called to a supportive housing facility on Pandora Avenue after Rauch, under the influence of meth, threatened a tenant with a knife and then barricaded herself inside a unit.

While on scene attempting to communicate with Rauch, police discovered smoke billowing out the exterior of the building. Officers say the fire increased the urgency of the situation because of the risk to others in the building.

Rauch’s family says Kirkwood’s response was exaggerated

“They’re supposedly trained to be calm and make clear decisions based on actually what’s going on. I don’t see how that was happening here,” said Audrey Rauch, Lisa’s mom.

Kirkwood says his vision was obscured by swirling smoke, and that he fired an ARWEN from a short distance at what he thought was Rauch’s chest and torso.

The Rauch family says based on Kirkwood’s testimony, they believe he was driven by panic and paranoia, and that his actions were not a true assessment of the situation at hand.

Lisa’s sister, Kelly Rauch, said in her testimony Tuesday that the decision to “shoot blindly into a small, dark space where their vision was obscured due to a smouldering fire” was reckless.

“I don’t understand how anyone can shoot when you can’t see what you’re shooting at?” asked Audrey. “He made a mistake and he just needs to own it.”

Lawyer argues what Kirkwood did doesn’t amount to officer misconduct

Kirkwood’s lawyer, Kevin Woodall, asserted that Kirkwood’s actions were consistent with the National Use of Force Framework, Canadian policing standards and Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team standards. Woodall said police officers make split-second decisions and there has to be allowances for them to make such.

As for whether the fire was out before Kirkwood fired the ARWEN, Woodall says it doesn’t matter because it would only have been a fraction of a second before Kirkwood fired the ARWEN, something that doesn’t amount to professional misconduct.

Kirkwood is also facing an allegation of neglect of duty in relation to a lack of documentation that will be dealt with in future public hearing dates in September.

Sometime in October, adjudicator Wally Oppal – a retired judge and former B.C. Attorney General – will lay out his findings and can make recommendations about police policies.

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Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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