What began as an early morning report to police of a man threatening self harm ended tragically Sunday afternoon (July 10) in Williams Lake.
B.C.’s police watch dog has been called in to investigate after the man was found dead in his home with what appeared to be self-inflicted injuries, noted police.
“The Independent Investigation Office BC is now investigating the incident in an effort to determine whether police actions contributed to the man’s death,” said Dawn Roberts, communications with the BC RCMP media in a news release Sunday evening.
Roberts noted Sunday at approximately 3:40 a.m. Williams Lake RCMP received a complaint a man was in possession of a weapon and was contemplating self-harm at a home in the community.
RCMP officers attended the residence, which is in a multifamily complex on the corner of Eleventh Avenue and Smedley Street in a residential neighbourhood.
Police established a perimeter at about 7 a.m. and closed off vehicle access in the near vicinity.
Other residents in the building were evacuated and Staff Sgt. Del Byron when contacted by the Tribune advised nearby residents to stay in their basements and the public to stay away from the area.
Eventually the North District Emergency Response Team (ERT) arrived and as officers stationed themselves around the area, a police negotiator attempted to contact the man by speaking through a loud speaker.
Members of the response team deployed numerous less-lethal explosive devices, which generated a loud boom and smoke could be seen billowing as the police negotiator attempted to convince the man to come outside.
Around 12 p.m. a youth walked out of the house.
She stayed with members of the ERT for a few moments until an officer left his post at the north side of Eleventh Avenue, where it was closed off to the public, and walked down to accompany her away from the scene.
Carrying a cell phone, and holding her arms across her chest, the youth walked beside the officer away from the scene.
The police negotiator then told the man through the loud speaker it was a good thing the youth was out of the house and told him to do the same thing and come out of the home through the front door and that “no one’s going to hurt you.”
Several times the ERT walked slowly up toward the home, with one officer in front holding a shield, and retreated back.
An officer broke the front window of the home at one point, but there continued to be no response from inside the home.
At approximately 12:30 p.m., members of the ERT went up the front steps in single file and entered the home.
Roberts said they located the man deceased with a weapon, and what appeared to be a self-inflicted injury.
The team exited, and soon afterwards another emergency response person wearing a bright yellow vest entered the home.
Police officers then began dismantling the perimeter, but kept Eleventh Avenue closed while the BC Coroners Service arrived and conducted its investigation.
By 5 p.m. the RCMP had left the scene completely.
Family and community members gathered for a drumming and singing ceremony outside the home in the parking area and on Eleventh Avenue in front of the building at about 6:30 p.m.
An aunt and sister-in-law of the man who died told the Tribune Tuesday they believe the way the incident unfolded so publicly on social media inflamed the difficult situation.
What happened Sunday was completely out of character for the man who died, they said.
The family is awaiting the results of the IIO investigation in the hopes that something like this won’t happen again.
They said he was a family man who leaves behind his wife, four children, his parents and siblings.
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars said Monday his “thoughts and prayers are with the family and the community.”
The IIO is asking any person with relevant information on the incident to please contact the witness line toll-free at 1-855-446-8477 or through the contact form at iiobc.ca.
This story was updated Wednesday, July 13 with a few comments from family members of the man who died.