The Independent Investigations Office has cleared a Vancouver police officer of any wrongdoing in a high-profile gang investigation in 2017 that involved a suspect suffering serious injuries during an arrest.
The suspect, whose name was not released, suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and a liver laceration after the Ford Explorer he was a passenger in crashed into three parked vehicles in south Vancouver.
When the Explorer stopped, the suspect said a police officer — a dog handler — punched him “a few times” in the head and body after a police dog “started grabbing my leg and stuff,” according to a report released June 7 by IIO Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald.
MacDonald concluded from the evidence that the suspect’s injuries occurred during an initial attempt by police in an SUV to stop the Explorer by striking its door and a second successful attempt by another police-driven SUV that caused the crash.
“It is highly unlikely that an officer would have entered a suspect vehicle believed to be occupied by two potentially violent individuals with at least one firearm, in the manner described by [the suspect],” MacDonald wrote.
“There is no evidence of any injury, superficial or otherwise, attributable to punches.”
MacDonald described the injuries caused by the dog as “minor.”
The crash occurred in the early morning hours of Oct. 26, 2017 after a police-driven SUV rammed the rear of the Explorer hard enough for it to spin out near 57th Avenue and Windsor Street.
Moments earlier, another police-driven SUV attempted to stop the Explorer near Fraser Street and 57th Avenue. The IIO report said the police vehicle made “contact lightly” on the driver’s side of the pursued vehicle.
The IIO report did not disclose street names, make of vehicle or other details of what police dubbed Project Temper, a joint investigation with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C.
That information appears in court documents related to the investigation, which ended in seven arrests, the seizure of four guns, ammunition and various charges against what police at the time described as “a violent group.”
Those documents referred to the passenger in the Explorer as S.K.K., who was a youth at the time.
The documents say S.K.K. and driver Simrat Singh Lally were believed to be on their way to shoot a firearm into the family residence of members of a rival street gang living near the 7100-block of Fraser Street.
Lally, who was 19 at the time, pleaded guilty in December to arson and firearm charges and was sentenced March 8 in B.C. Supreme Court to almost five years in prison.
When interviewed by IIO investigators about the arrest on Oct. 26, 2017, S.K.K. said, “I was on drugs… it’s kind of like a blur, you know. I only remember bits and pieces.”
S.K.K. also told investigators he consumed “maybe a little bit of liquor” and rated his state of intoxication as “around eight, nine” on a scale of one to 10.
The IIO report says police recovered an SKS semi-automatic assault rifle and ammunition in a gun case that had “apparently been thrown from the suspect vehicle through a broken window by the force of the crash.”
MacDonald said the officer in question was justified in his use of force — both in the vehicle collision and the use of his police dog — in the arrest.
“The police were faced with attempting to prevent what they understood to be a planned shooting,” he wrote.
“While the force they used to stop the vehicle was significant, it was reasonable and justified in the circumstances given the significant harm they were attempting to prevent. Indeed, it was their duty to prevent the intended crime.”