Kyle Harland, Vancouver, B.C. (Globe and Mail) – Linda Bush has had more than two years to think about how the police failed her after an RCMP officer shot and killed her 22-year-old son on Oct. 29, 2005.
That night, her son Ian Bush stood outside the local hockey arena in Houston, holding a beer. When an officer questioned him about the alcohol, he gave a false name. That officer, Constable Paul Koester, arrested him and took him back to the RCMP detachment. Within 20 minutes, Mr. Bush was shot in the back of the head by Constable Koester.
The report will be centred on whether the RCMP investigation, which was reviewed by New Westminster police, was conducted correctly. The internal investigation found no grounds to charge Constable Koester, a result that disappointed Ms. Bush.
Ms. Bush has never been satisfied with results from the police investigation, or a coroner’s inquest earlier this year, but may finally hear some of her complaints addressed tomorrow morning when Paul Kennedy, the chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, releases his final report on the incident.
She can list a number of recommendations she would give: Police should be banned from investigating other police, and the investigation into her son’s death should be reopened.
She believes the RCMP need to improve recruitment and training. The officer who shot her son was a rookie being trained by an officer who had been on the force for just 2½ years.
But she doesn’t believe Mr. Kennedy’s report will change these things. “I’m not expecting a lot from it,” Ms. Bush said. “Right from the beginning, there’s been high expectation that there’d be changes made out of this, and of course it just doesn’t happen.”
The release of the report comes amid the controversy over the death of Robert Dziekanski after RCMP officers tasered him in the Vancouver International Airport, an incident that Mr. Kennedy and the public complaints commission are also looking at.
When Ms. Bush learned of Mr. Dziekanski’s death, she said she was shocked and upset. “This is what we’re trying to prevent. But how many people are going to die before it happens?” she asked. “All I can say in this case is thank goodness there was a video.”
In Mr. Bush’s case, Constable Koester, who fired the gun, was the only witness. He told the coroner’s inquest that Mr. Bush attacked him and that the shot was in self-defence. That version of events has repeatedly been questioned, particularly by friends and family. During the coroner’s inquest, a forensic consultant said that Constable Koester’s story didn’t match the blood-spatter patterns.
Although tomorrow’s announcement may be the final report from the public complaints commission, the case will continue to be scrutinized. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which believes a civilian agency should investigate such cases involving police, are proceeding with a judicial review.
Meanwhile, Ms. Bush has filed a lawsuit against Constable Koester, and is also suing the B.C. Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General.