The Independent Investigations Office has cleared RCMP officers of any wrongdoing in how they responded to a call that resulted in the March 2020 death of Whistler, B.C., resident Jason Koehler.
The agency’s investigation determined that a mix of a serious health condition and the consumption of several drugs contributed to Koehler’s death.
The report details how a conducted energy weapon was used six times on Koehler as four RCMP officers tried to subdue him inside a Whistler Village restaurant, after he refused to leave the premises.
“The officers tasked with resolving the situation and placing him under arrest could not be expected to foresee that the struggle to achieve that would end in his death,” wrote Ronald MacDonald, chief civilian director for the IIO.
“The fact that it did cannot be laid at the feet of the arresting officers.”
The IIO is a civilian-led police oversight agency that investigates whether police action resulted in incidents of death or serious harm.
Details come to light
The IIO said it collected the statements of 32 witnesses, six first responders and four officers as part of its investigation. It also looked at recordings of police radio transmission, video recording from the restaurant and the cellphone of one witness, RCMP policies, training records, first responder records, the autopsy report and the toxicology report.
The agency’s six-page report provides new details about what happened on the morning of March 8, 2020.
Around 10:15 a.m., Koehler arrived at the Stonesedge Kitchen in Whistler Village, where witnesses described him as acting erratic and abnormal.
The report says he was talking to himself, uttering threats to no one in particular, striking the bar and going outside to yell at pedestrians.
CCTV camera recorded movement but no audio, but the report notes that his behaviour matches witness descriptions.
He was asked to leave by the restaurant, according to the report, and when he refused, the police were called. Three RCMP officers arrived around 11 a.m. They also asked Koehler to leave.
The incident started off calm, but turned physical after Koehler grabbed his I.D. back from an officer, according to the report.
“IIO investigators were able to obtain a wide variety of civilian eyewitness accounts of the incident up to this point,” wrote MacDonald.
However, most of the diners left when the incident turned physical and the IIO then had to rely on video recordings and police statements, the report said.
“The CCTV video records the violent struggle that continued, with all three officers trying to maintain control of [Koehler] by holding his arms, but finding themselves unable to do so,” wrote MacDonald.
“[Koehler] is shown throwing the officers off of him and various furniture went flying.”
Officers eventually used a conducted energy weapon (CEW) on Koehler. There was then a standoff between Koehler and the three officers. Throughout the fight, Koehler can be heard saying the officers were not the real police.
When Koehler started walking toward the officers and flipping furniture, an officer again used a CEW on him to no effect. He was then pepper sprayed. A fourth officer who arrived also used his CEW on Koehler twice.
Koehler then begins “wriggling across the floor” toward the officer, who uses the CEW another two times.
The report says officers then attempted to physically control Koehler. During the fight, Koehler reached for a dinner knife and fork, according to officers.
The IIO has concluded its investigation into the death of a man in Whistler Village in March 2020. <a href=”https://t.co/ltE8XK1sB8″>https://t.co/ltE8XK1sB8</a>
The report says the video shows one officer punching Koehler’s side and another officer hitting his legs with a baton.
Once gaining control of Koehler and putting him in handcuffs, officers noticed he was unresponsive on the floor, according to the IIO.
CPR was initiated, first by officers and then paramedics, but to no avail. Koehler was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Autopsy and toxicology reports
Koehler’s toxicology report revealed that there was methamphetamine, cocaine, THC metabolite and naloxone in his system.
An autopsy found that Koehler also had an enlarged heart.
It determined that Koehler died from the combined effect of drug toxicity, dilated cardiomyopathy and struggle during physical restraint.
“While significant force was used against [Koheler] during the arrest … the need for that level of force was created by [Koehler’s] own violent resistance,” wrote MacDonald.
“The officers used necessary force designed to control [Koehler].