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No charges in RCMP killing of Jared Lowndes shocks First Nations leaders

‘Casts doubt’ on support for, or faith in, the Independent Investigation Office
Jared Lowndes was killed during an encounter with police which also resulted in the death of a police service dog and injuries to its handler. Facebook photo

The B.C. Assembly of First Nations condemned the BC Prosecution Service’s decision to not pursue charges against three RCMP officers responsible for the killing of a First Nations man in Campbell River on July 8, 2021.

“The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) is shocked and angered to learn that the BC Prosecution Service will not be pursuing charges on three RCMP officers responsible for the killing of Jared Lowndes, a member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, in Campbell River on July 8, 2021,” a statement issued by the BCAFN says. “In 2022, the Independent Investigations Office recommended charges against the three officers involved, stating ‘reasonable grounds exist to believe that three officers may have committed offences in relation to various uses of force.’”

Lowndes died the morning of July 8, 2021 in the parking lot of the Willow Point Tim Hortons in Campbell River after police officers opened fire. During the incident, a police dog was also killed, and the dog’s handler was injured.

The Independent Investigations Office forwarded the file to Crown counsel in October of 2023, recommending the consideration of charges against the trio of officers involved who have not been identified publicly.

The BC Prosecution Service released its decision Tuesday, April 23, concluding that the evidence available did not meet their charge assessment standard.

“The BCPS is not able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officers committed any offence in relation to the incident. As a result, no charges have been approved,” a statement from BCPS says.

READ MORE: No charges against police who shot Indigenous man in Campbell River: family

The decision does not sit will with BCAFN leadership.

BCAFN Regional Chief Terry Teegee, says, “Less than a month after the BC Prosecution Service stayed manslaughter charges against police officers responsible for the death of Dale Culver, we are here yet again at the helm of closed-door investigations that uphold instead of dismantle the colonial and racist institution of the RCMP. We cannot accept these decisions as the status quo, and we demand immediate answers for Jared’s family. Imminent review of the criminal justice system must be prioritized by our government in full partnership with the rights and title holders of British Columbia. We cannot let yet another death of our family members mark the continued inaction and failure of a system we never consented to.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, says, “This decision reopens wounds for Jared’s family and only drives this issue of colonial violence perpetuated by the justice system further. Shame on the BC Prosecution Service and shame on the RCMP for this grave injustice. The BC Prosecution Service must stop blindly sanctioning the use of deadly force against Indigenous citizens in BC. First Nations cannot continue to live in fear of RCMP officers’ unfettered actions that have no consequence. Indigenous people are more than 10 times more likely to be murdered by the police in Canada than non-Indigenous people. This tells us that the system is broken beyond repair, and we demand accountability of the BC Prosecution Service.”

READ MORE: Crown says no charges in Lowndes shooting because of lack of evidence

Hugh Braker, First Nations Summit Political Executive, says this case will further shake First Nations’ confidence in independent investigations of police actions.

“This decision by the Prosecution Service to not lay charges against the three police officers in question casts doubt on the BC Solicitor General’s Ministry and Attorney General’s Ministry support for, or faith in, the Independent Investigation Office (IIO),” Braker says. “The IIO was formed to ‘independently’ examine police officers’ actions and, where necessary, recommend charges. They recommended charges here. First Nations’ people cannot be faulted for a complete lack of faith in, or support for, the existing Justice System. We reaffirm the need for BC Attorney General Niki Sharma and BC Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to work with First Nations immediately to prevent further injustice and identify a path forward for Jared’s family.”