A Vancouver police officer says a senior member of the force who was acting as a union representative told him not to make any handwritten notes about the confrontation that resulted in the death of 33-year-old Myles Gray in 2015.
Const. Joshua Wong told the British Columbia coroner’s inquest into Gray’s death that he was sitting at the department with his notebook out when the union representative told him not to make notes.
Wong said he typed up a statement when he got home, and he was instructed months later to upload it to a police database.
Gray died following a beating by several officers that left him with injuries including a fractured eye socket, a crushed voice box and a ruptured testicle.
Wong testified that he doesn’t know why the union representative told him not to make notes, and he doesn’t recall who it was, but it did seem like an odd request.
He told the inquest Gray was “actively fighting” one of three officers already at the scene when he arrived in response to a call for backup, while another officer had “slurred speech” and told Wong Gray had punched him in the face.
Wong said he saw Gray as a violent and dangerous person who was assaulting police officers and needed to be controlled immediately.
“Of course, I did not want to use lethal force,” he told the inquest, saying that would be the last option any of the officers would have used.
The BC Prosecution Service announced in 2020 that charges would not be approved against the officers, saying police were the only witnesses to the incident and the Crown couldn’t prove an offence had been committed.
Wong said he joined in the struggle to restrain Gray, who he described as “super strong” and soaked in sweat with heat radiating from his skin.
He believed Gray had used some kind of drug, Wong testified.
Wong said he delivered two to four knee strikes to the side of Gray’s torso and, finding they were “ineffective,” punched Gray a similar number of times in the face.
He told the inquest he deployed pepper spray into Gray’s face before two more officers arrived.
Wong said he had no recollection of Gray being handcuffed, but remembers another officer yelling that no one should put pressure on Gray’s upper body, head or neck as he lay on his stomach with cuffs on behind his back.
Officers noticed Gray’s skin was turning blue, so they removed the cuffs, put him on his back and began chest compressions, he said.
“It appeared that Const. Cain’s first aid brought him back to being conscious, as he immediately began kicking and flailing and fighting once again,” Wong testified.
“He was also screaming somebody’s name, a male’s name, again, I’m not sure exactly what it was, before he passed away.”
There had been no signs of distress before Gray’s skin turned blue, he said.
A lawyer for Gray’s family, Ian Donaldson, suggested to Wong that he “took part in this beating that led to this man’s death.”
Wong replied that he was “only thinking of my own safety at the time.”
Additional Vancouver police officers are expected to testify at the inquest that began Monday with testimony from Gray’s sister, Melissa Gray.
She described her brother as goofy and kind, saying he’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in high school, around 1999, but he’d been stable ever since.
The jury won’t be able to make findings of legal responsibility at the inquest but may make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2023.