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Closing arguments heard on use of force by Victoria police officers in fatal 2019 shooting

Closing arguments heard on use of force by Victoria police officers in fatal 2019 shooting
Closing arguments heard on use of force by Victoria police officers in fatal 2019 shooting

Final arguments were heard Wednesday at a public hearing into the actions of a Victoria police officer who shot and killed 43-year-old Lisa Rauch on Christmas Day 2019. Sgt. Ron Kirkwood faces two charges of misconduct in connection with Rauch’s death.

On Wednesday, attorneys delivered their closing arguments about Kirkwood’s use of force.

The hearing has taken two months to get to this point and is only partially complete. On Wednesday, July 10, the charge of misconduct related to the use of force was heard. Kirkwood fired three ARWEN rounds into a smoky room in 2019, hitting Rauch in the back of the head.

Rauch died four days later from blunt force head trauma.

An ARWEN is considered a “less lethal weapon” that fires plastic projectiles designed to incapacitate a person. It is intended to be fired at the torso when officers have a clear line of sight.

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What happened

On December 25, 2019, Victoria Police were called to a seniors’ residential facility on Pandora Avenue after Rauch, while under the influence of meth, threatened a tenant with a knife and then barricaded himself inside the home.

While attempting to communicate with Rauch at the scene, police discovered smoke coming from the outside of the building. Officers say the fire heightened the urgency of the situation because of the risk to others in the building.

Rauch family says Kirkwood’s reaction was over the top

“They’re supposedly trained to stay calm and make clear decisions based on what’s actually happening. I don’t see how that could happen here,” said Audrey Rauch, Lisa’s mother.

Kirkwood says his view was obscured by swirling smoke and he fired an ARWEN round at point blank range, aimed at what he thought was Rauch’s chest and torso.

The Rauch family believes that Kirkwood, based on his testimony, was driven by panic and paranoia and that his actions were not an accurate assessment of the situation.

Lisa’s sister, Kelly Rauch, testified Tuesday in her testimony that the decision to “shoot blindly in a small, dark room where their view was obscured by a smoldering fire” was reckless.

“I don’t understand how someone can shoot when you can’t see what you’re shooting at?” Audrey asked. “He made a mistake and he needs to admit it.”

Attorney argues that what Kirkwood did was not officer misconduct

Kirkwood’s lawyer, Kevin Woodall, argued that Kirkwood’s actions were consistent with the National Use of Force Framework, Canadian Police Standards and the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team standards. Woodall said police officers make split-second decisions and should have latitude to do so.

As to whether the fire was extinguished before Kirkwood fired the ARWEN, Woodall says it doesn’t matter because it only took a fraction of a second for Kirkwood to fire the ARWEN, which does not amount to professional misconduct.

Kirkwood is also accused of dereliction of duty related to a lack of documentation. This issue will be addressed at future public hearings in September.

Sometime in October, arbitrator Wally Oppal – a retired judge and former attorney general of British Columbia – will present his findings and make recommendations on police policy.

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