Victim’s family upset after B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office clears a Port Hardy RCMP officer for shooting him five times in July 2015
On July 8, 2015, RCMP responded to a complaint of a man who was armed with a knife and had made threatening comments to members of the public in Port Hardy.
“The number of civilian witnesses that we have spoken to did mention that the affected person was acting aggressively toward them and he did threaten to kill them in his own words,” said Marten Youseff, spokesperson for the Independent Investigations Office.
Police found the man, 24-year-old James Hawyard, at the junction of Island Highway and Granville Street in Port Hardy.
Witnesses reported seeing Hayward advance on the officers with a knife in a manner described as “moving quickly”, “lunging towards” and as moving in a “full sprint.”
Officers issued repeated commands for Hayward to drop the knife but he failed to do so and was shot five times.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The IIO was called to the scene, and investigators interviewed multiple witnesses and officers, and reviewed medical evidence, ballistics reports, photographic evidence and police dispatch records.
They have concluded that the officer was not in the wrong to use lethal force, and no charges will be recommended to Crown Counsel.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances on all of the evidence, we have determined that the use of force options that were available and used by the police were justified, reasonable and proportionate,” Youssef said.
Nora Hayward, James Hayward’s aunt, says his family is not happy with the decision.
“My whole family is mortified, this shouldn’t be happening in this day and age with rubber bullets and tasers and pepper spray and critical courses that they take,” Hayward said.
She says her nephew suffered from bipolar disorder and was off his medication at the time.
While she admits he had a troubled past she doesn’t believe he intended to hurt anyone that day.
“I honestly believe that if they had just left him, he would have just run right past them and gone home, I honestly believe that,” she said.
She knows nothing will bring James back, but she’s now hoping the BC Coroner will hold an inquest, so lessons can be learned from her nephew’s death, and no other families have to live with the heartbreak they feel every day.