The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner will hold a public hearing into a 2019 incident where a woman died after being shot three times by “less lethal” rounds by a Victoria Police constable.
On Christmas Day 2019, VicPD was called to a residence by the owner of a unit saying a woman had barricaded herself inside with a kitchen knife and had threatened the occupants of a housing facility.
Police went to the area and evacuated the floor and tried to communicate with 43-year-old Lisa Rauch through the door. About half an hour after police arrived on scene, smoke was seen coming from the unit where Rauch was.
Officers were then authorized to breach the door. They did so and Const. Ron Kirkwood fired three ARWEN, or “less lethal” rounds, which hit Lisa in the head. Following this incident, Kirkwood did not take any notes but dictated a “will-say” document to a supervisor.
When officers entered the unit, they found Rauch unresponsive and bleeding from the head. She was brought to the hospital in critical condition and died four days later.
The autopsy report says Lisa died of blunt force head injuries and notes there was no evidence of smoke inhalation or thermal injuries.
The Independent Investigations Office of B.C., a Police Disciplinary Authority, and an independent adjudicator of the investigation have all done investigations into this death and found there was no misconduct.
The notice of public hearing says Audrey, Ron and Kelly Rauch and Cheryl Peterson submitted a request on Aug. 21, 2023 to hold a public hearing into Lisa’s death.
“In their request, the Complainants identify what they believe to be a number of inconsistencies in the evidence and the information they were provided by the police and the IIO,” the public hearing notice says.
“The Complainants also noted that they ‘believe that a Public Hearing, where questions can be asked and hopefully answered, will provide us with information we have been deprived of throughout this process’ and that they ‘also believe it is in the public’s interest to be aware of what police officers are capable of in their interactions with the public and the steps that are taken to shield them from accountability.'”
Clayton Pecknold, the police complaint commissioner, found that a public hearing is of public interest due to the fact that Lisa was a vulnerable member of the community experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of her death, so the officers’ actions “must bear public scrutiny” – and Kirkwood did not provide evidence to the IIO about the decision-making that led to firing the “less lethal” rounds.
Additionally, Pecknold said he believes it is necessary to examine and cross-examine to ensure a “full accounting” for the use of force.
VicPD’s Chief Del Manak says he respects the right to hold a public hearing but says the incident has already gone through three rounds of oversight.
“As a result of the investigations that have taken place so far, VicPD has made recommended changes to note-taking policy, and created clear guidance on reporting requirements in use of force incidents,” Manak said in a statement.
“At this point, my thoughts are with the family and the officers involved, who have all been subjected to a years-long process that has impacted their ability to move forward with their lives. We will continue to support the member who is the subject of this investigation, and our hearts are with the family who continue to re-live this event through these investigations almost four years later,” he said.