As seen in Vancouver Sun by Sarah
VICTORIA — On the second anniversary of her son being shot and killed by a Victoria police officer, Marney Mutch hand-delivered a notice of a wrongful death lawsuit to the police department and the city.
“I said: ‘This is for the loss of my son two years ago today,’” said Mutch, speaking at her Victoria home where her son Rhett Mutch, 20, was killed on Nov. 1, 2014.
“He (an officer) said, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ and took it,” she said.
Mutch said she filed the claim in a continuing effort to find out what happened to her son and to see change result from his death.
Seven unnamed officers are listed in the suit, which seeks a range of damages and submits they were negligent, violated charter rights and used excessive force.
“I want them all to acknowledge this was a perfect storm of everything that could go wrong … and get the crisis intervention training they need,” Mutch said.
Victoria police said they could not comment on the case but that their training is constantly updated.
“This training evolution results from incidents that have occurred with our officers, as well as those that have occurred with other police agencies locally, provincially, nationally and internationally,” said Const. Matt Rutherford.
“In concert with ongoing updated, evolving training, we also examine and update our policies and procedures to proactively ensure that we are compliant with legislative requirements and public expectations.”
Rhett was shot in the neck less than an hour after his mother called 911 because he had broken into her home after being asked to stay away. He was upset and threatened himself with a steak knife.
Several officers responded. She was escorted out of the house while officers entered. Moments later, Rhett was dead.
The Victoria police officer who shot Rhett was cleared of wrongdoing in a report by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. released in June.
“There is no evidence to support that the involved officers had any malice against, or motivation to do harm to, the affected person or use any force against him other than what was reasonably necessary to take him into lawful custody,” said the IIO, a civilian-led organization that investigates incidents of serious harm and death involving police.
The IIO pointed out concerns over police actions that day, including “significant communication barriers.”
The officers did not know or ask if anyone else was in the house and the shooting officer told investigators he would not have gone in the house and would have followed a different procedure if he knew Rhett was alone and suicidal.
Mutch said she has spent months going over the 29-page report and found concerning discrepancies. Some were minor errors.
“The officer who walked me out of the house said he put me in the car and then heard a gunshot. That’s not true. I was standing right beside him outside of the car,” she said.
Others points raised serious issues, she said: “They said the bean bag gun didn’t work. But it hit him in the centre of the thigh leaving a huge bruise.”
In her living room, framed photos of Rhett and the words, “You make me proud everyday,” hang over the couch where she last saw her son, feet from where he died.
When she moved a cabinet, she found a small blood splatter on the wall. She has left it, in hopes an investigator would come look again.
“I believe the officer panicked and shot him at the same time as the bean bag shot. I believe he (Rhett) put down the knife, stood up and was going to go with them,” Mutch said.
She also questions an officer’s account about kicking the knife out of Rhett’s hand.
Mutch has taken her concerns about the report to the IIO.
Marten Youssef, the IIO’s communications manager, confirmed that there has been a request from the affected person’s family, and said it is being assessed.
“The IIO has not reopened this investigation,” Youssef said.
Mutch said parents are treated “almost as nuisances in these situations.”
“A condescending politeness, but no real information. But who else will defend our sons and make sure this doesn’t happen to others?”
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