Tuesday, May 30, 2006
VANCOUVER (CP) – The heartsick mother of a young man killed after he was arrested for publicly drinking beer is doubtful charges will ever be laid after her son was shot in the back of the head while in police custody.
Linda Bush, who has filed a civil suit against the RCMP and the provincial government, said Monday past examples indicate charges are never laid against police in British Columbia in similar situations.
Ian Bush, 22, was arrested Oct. 29, 2005 after being caught drinking a beer outside a hockey arena in Houston, in northwest B.C.
About 20 minutes later he was shot to death in the local police detachment’s interview room. Months later, the family’s lawyer learned Bush died from a shot to the back of the head.
“I think there are no situations in B.C. where charges have been laid,” Linda Bush said in an interview. “I know it’s extremely rare.”
Her B.C. Supreme Court suit against Const. Paul Koester claims her son’s death was “directly caused by the unlawful assault and negligence of the defendant.”
“Constable Paul Koester pulled out his gun and shot Ian Bush in the back of the head,” the statement of claim said.
The suit, which also names B.C.’s attorney general, contains allegations not proven in court.
Bush said she filed the suit after learning of the police shooting of Kevin St. Arnaud, who was shot after apparently confronting an officer in a field near Vanderhoof, B.C. in December 2004.
After 14 months, RCMP decided not to lay charges against the officer.
The RCMP Public Complaints Commission is investigating the shooting on the grounds the officer may have improperly discharged his firearm.
Bush said she’s been preparing herself for the fact charges likely won’t be laid in her son’s case.
“There are no witnesses, there’s nobody to say exactly what happened other than the officer,” she said. “So I’m not confident. I’m very hopeful still, but not confident that there will be charges laid.”
Bush said it will be a matter of the officer’s word and forensic evidence.
But she said she hopes the lawsuit will prompt investigators to decide to lay charges despite the difficulties.
“If it was a case where it was another individual who had killed Ian, that person would probably be in jail waiting for this investigation to close,” she said.
RCMP have told Bush their investigation is complete and now in the hands of the New Westminster Police force for an independent review.
However, she said it hasn’t been made clear to her if the New Westminster detachment is reviewing the investigation process or if it’s an actual review of the shooting death of her son.
New Westminster police spokesman Staff Sgt. Casey Dehaas confirmed Deputy Chief Mike Judd is conducting a review of the RCMP’s investigation.
Meanwhile, Koester is apparently working desk duty at a different B.C. police detachment.
Bush said there should be some kind of civilian oversight in British Columbia for these types of investigations.
“The thing we feel needs changing the most is RCMP investigating RCMP.”
She said the lawsuit and her push for answers has brought back the same raw feeling she had in the days after Ian died.
“It’s difficult, but it’s also very necessary.”