More than two months ago, 42-year-old father of eight Chris Amyotte died, injured by Vancouver police who fired a projectile filled with lead shotgun pellets.
The unarmed victim was seeking help, apparently suffering a personal crisis. CBC News reported the Ojibway man “was in distress from a bear mace attack and was attempting to relieve the burning sensation by removing his clothes and dousing himself in milk.“
Chris Amyotte needed medical assistance. He was punished by lethal violence instead.
The CBC report by Eva Uguen-Csenge is inadequate journalism of the type we see too often from large news operations. The article mentions “bean bag” nine times, which is nine times more than the number of beans on the scene. Also mentioned without comment is this:
VPD Sgt. Steve Addison has said a bean bag shotgun is “a safe and effective less-lethal tool” and “is used as an alternative to lethal force and can be deployed against a person who is acting violently or displaying assaultive behaviour.”
Video shows that Amyotte was not acting violently or displaying assaultive behaviour. His death proves a weapon firing lead shot is not safe. The projectiles are more closely related to shotgun shells, while the term “bean bag” reminds us of soft parcels tossed by games playing children. CBS News quoted a gun store owner about use of the lead filled bags:
You don’t aim for someone’s head per se, certainly not on purpose, and you couldn’t even do it if you tried. It veers off course because of its very nature. Think of it as a hacky sack flying through the air. It doesn’t fly like an arrow. It’s ballistically unstable.Police use of bean bag rounds and rubber bullets under scrutiny
Another troubling issue is the apparent ineffectiveness of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), British Columbia’s police oversight agency. The video in the October 27 CBC report was posted to TikTok days after the August homicide. The dead man’s family member Samantha Wilson said she has been aware of the video for months.
The IIO said they had no knowledge of the video until it was shown to them by CBC.
That raises an obvious question. How thorough is the IIO investigation?
We should wonder why the victim’s family, journalists and others would be aware of the video, but full-time, professional ILO investigators would be unaware months after the incident. Were they even talking to Amyotte’s survivors?
In other public sectors, effective oversight and regulation is difficult. In policing, it seems to be near impossible. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):
The bad news is that police abuse is a serious problem. It has a long history, and it seems to defy all attempts at eradication.
This CBC story shows police abuse is not just a problem in the USA.