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Police watchdog clears Tofino RCMP officer in shooting death of Julian Jones

Details from the investigation will be released once court case related to the incident is over

A Tofino RCMP officer who shot and killed a 28-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation man while responding to a call for help on Meares Island last year will not be charged, according the police watchdog charged with reviewing the incident.

In a Nov. 16, 2022 bulletin, BC’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) stated that all the evidence has been reviewed in the death of Julian Jones and “there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any officer committed an offence.” The independent investigation is now closed and the matter will not be referred to Crown Counsel for consideration of charges.

At about 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 27, 2021, two officers from Tofino RCMP attended an Opitsaht residence to locate a woman in distress, reads the file released by BC RCMP on Feb. 28, 2021. When they arrived, an interaction took place. One man was shot and another was taken into custody. The woman was located and taken to hospital for medical assessment. No one else was injured, according to the RCMP.

“As a matter related to the incident is currently before the courts, the IIO is unable to provide further details regarding the incident or rationale for this decision at this time. I regret that the frustration this lack of information will cause is required to ensure a fair trial,” said Chief Civilian Director (CCD) Ronald J. MacDonald in the bulletin.

“However, I feel it necessary to advise the public, and in particular the family of the deceased and other involved parties, that this investigation has concluded in as timely a manner as possible.

“Once the court process concludes, I and my investigative team will ensure we are available to meet with the affected person’s family and community members to review the investigation and to answer questions.”

For the first time in history, an Indigenous Civilian Monitor was appointed to look over the report by BC’s police watchdog.

“I have no recommendations for the integrity of the investigation (involving the shooting death of Jones); the investigation was carried out with excellent procedure. I do not see that anyone else needs to be spoken to in order to complete this file. The interviews and evidence collected were fulsome. I am content with the way the IIO conducted the investigation,” said Thomas George, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, in an Aug. 2 IIO bulletin.

George’s full report will be published once the ongoing court proceedings have concluded later in 2023, according to Macdonald.

“The IIO will continue to work hard to earn the trust of Indigenous Peoples and communities. I appreciate that the time the oversight process takes is difficult for everyone involved, but I emphasize that the IIO is, first and foremost, focused on conducting thorough and unbiased investigations. I am glad this was clear to Mr. George during his review, and I want to thank the IIO team who conducted this challenging investigation and freely provided Mr. George with any information he requested during his time reviewing the file,” said Macdonald.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) say they are “disillusioned and frustrated” that once again, a cop has killed a First Nations person without consequences.

“There is always hope that the system will bring justice for a person killed by police, but the reality never lives up to this hope as the system is stacked against us,” reads a Nov. 16 NTC media release.

The death of Jones came less than two years after the fatal high-profile shooting of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman Chantal Moore. In 2020, Moore, a 26-year-old mother, was killed by police in New Brunswick during a wellness check. Officer Jeremy Son, the New Brunswick police officer who shot and killed Moore, was cleared of any wrongdoing and was able to resume his duties as a patrol officer.

Judith Sayers is the president of the NTC and the director of the BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC).

“The pattern of unaccountability and injustice for Indigenous victims of police violence, their families, and their communities is reprehensible. It underscores the fact that policing oversight is broken. It begs the question, how can we count on colonial oversight bodies, including the IIO, to hold police accountable when they continue to do the exact opposite?” said Sayers in a Nov. 21 BCFNJC press release.

The BCFNJC calls for new models of structured relations between First Nations and police, and the creation of more community-level police services.

“We cannot stand by and watch more of our people be shot by police. Changes must happen now! How would you feel if one of your family members were shot by police and there were no consequences for that shooting and killing?” said Sayers.

The NTC is asking the RCMP and other police forces to:

1. Train their officers to disarm as opposed to freely shooting any way officers feel is needed.

2. More effective training on de-escalation of situations so no shooting is necessary

3. Independent Investigative Office be changed to be more reflective and inclusive of First Nations in their process.

4. Setting up an alternate system to 911 for wellness checks where trauma informed people respond as opposed to police.

5. Body cams in every police station for their officers.

6. Greater communication and protocols with First Nations

The Westerly reached out to Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation councillor Francis Frank for comment.

RELATED: ‘Police have killed more TFN members than COVID has,’ First Nation demands transparency in Tofino RCMP shooting investigation

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