IIO releases details on fatal 2021 police shooting near Tofino

IIO releases details on fatal 2021 police shooting near Tofino

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) has released its report into the police shooting death of an Indigenous man on Meares Island, north of Tofino, that occurred in February 2021.

Last year, the IIO announced that it would not be recommending charges against the officers involved in the shooting, but said it was unable to release details about its investigation since the matter was still before the courts.

On Friday, the IIO released its report into the incident, which outlined the circumstances of the fatal shooting.

Distress call

On the evening of Feb. 27, 2021, the Tofino RCMP were called to a home in Opitsaht, a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation village on Meares Island, two kilometres north of Tofino – after a woman had called 911 saying she had been sexually assaulted and was being held against her will.

Map of Opitsaht First Nation

Two RCMP officers arrived at the home around 9:30 p.m., with one officer describing the house as “completely dark.”

The IIO report illustrates a cluttered and frantic scene, with five people inside the home, including the woman who made the report, the man who was shot – Julian Jones – and his brother.

Both the officer and witnesses at the scene said it took several moments for people inside the home to open the front door after police arrived.

Once the door was open, Mounties immediately grabbed and handcuffed Jones’ brother, causing Jones to become aggressive, according to the IIO.

An officer at the scene told the IIO that Jones was holding two rectangular metal objects that he assumed were knives, though it was unclear because it was dark and he was standing behind a sheet that was partially hanging over a doorway.

“It looked like how someone would hold two knives,” the officer told the IIO.

While Jones’ brother was in handcuffs, he said something along the lines of, “Ow, watch it,” causing Jones to become irate, the IIO report reads.

“All of a sudden, [Jones], he just burst out from underneath this sheet and smashes these two things in his hands together and sparks light up the room,” the officer told the IIO.

The objects would later be identified as metal files.

The IIO says Jones began yelling at police, saying things like, “Don’t hurt my brother,” and “I’m going to kill you,” before one officer drew his service pistol while the other officer drew a taser.

The taser was fired and stunned Jones momentarily, causing him to sit down on a couch.

When one officer went to arrest him, he reportedly tensed up and grabbed the files again, at which point the other officer fired three rounds from his pistol, two of which struck Jones, ultimately killing him.

“On the preponderance of the evidence, both officers found themselves in a situation where they reasonably believed they were at risk of grievous bodily harm, at least, from someone advancing upon them with weapons that, while not knives, might reasonably be perceived to be knives, in any event were certainly capable of doing significant damage if used to strike,” reads the IIO report.

“They were in a dark, cluttered room, already dealing with one resistant individual, unable reasonably to retreat because of the need to protect the complainant, [the initial caller],” the report adds.

Indigenous civilian monitor

The fatal police shooting sparked an emotional reaction from the community, particularly since it occurred not long after Tla-o-qui-aht member Chantel Moore, 26, was killed by police officers conducting a wellness check in New Brunswick in spring 2020.

At the time, Jones’ sister, Laura Manson, wondered why police had to shoot her brother several times and why there appeared to be no accountability for the violence.

For the investigation, the IIO appointed an Indigenous civilian monitor to review its findings.

It was the first time in the organization’s history that an Indigenous civilian monitor had been appointed.

On June 30, 2022, the monitor, Thomas Geroge, said he was satisfied with the IIO’s investigation into the shooting, describing it as “fulsome.”

“I have no recommendations for the integrity of the investigation; the investigation was carried out with excellent procedure,” he wrote.

With files from CHEK News’ Dean Stoltz

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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