The provincial government appointed a specialized investigation unit Tuesday from Alberta to review new video evidence that captures a Vancouver police officer shooting a mentally ill man to death in 2007.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team will examine the amateur video that partly shows Const. Lee Chipperfield firing the fatal shot that killed Paul Boyd while he crawled on his hands and knees towards the officer near the intersection of Granville Street and West 12th Avenue.
"It is essential that British Columbians have confidence in their police," said Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond in a statement. "This is a very sensitive case, which is why we have asked the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an experienced, independent investigative agency, to consider the case in light of new information."
The footage surfaced Tuesday after a Winnipeg tourist released it to the CBC and is now widely available on the Internet. It shows Boyd on his hands and knees slowly advancing on a group of officers with their guns drawn.
An SUV stopped on Granville Street obscures the final shot but it is clearly heard on the video, which was filmed by Andreas Bergen on the evening of Aug. 13, 2007.
Bergen told the CBC he released the video after learning the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner concluded in March that Chipperfield did not use unnecessary or excessive force in the incident.
Boyd, 39, who suffered from bipolar disorder and associated paranoia, was killed after a series of events that escalated to Chipperfield firing his gun nine times in 81 seconds.
Eight of the bullets struck Boyd, with the fatal shot coming 23 seconds after the first eight. Chipperfield told investigators and testified at a coroner's inquest that he shot Boyd in the head with his last shot because he still believed him to be a threat and potentially wearing body armour.
Chipperfield said he believed Boyd was on his feet and "practically vertical" when he fired the fatal shot. But Police Complaint Commissioner Stan Lowe noted in his report the discrepancy among several of the witnesses "as to Mr. Boyd's body positioning and the level of risk he presented at the time of the fatal shot."
Police responded to the area after receiving a report of an assault, which turned out to be false but Boyd was heard yelling in the background.
Two plainclothes officers approached Boyd at a bus stop and noticed he was clenching a hammer. One of the officers drew his gun and told Boyd to drop the hammer, which he did.
When the officer attempted to handcuff Boyd, he grabbed a bike chain with a lock attached and struck the officer in the head, knocking him to the ground.
Another officer arrived and attempted to gain control of Boyd, using empty hand strikes and his baton, to no avail. Boyd also struck this officer with the chain.
Boyd then ran into the street and continued to swing the chain in a "menacing manner," according to Lowe's report. That's when Chipperfield opened fire on Boyd.
Tom Stamatakis, president of the Vancouver Police Union, said he wasn't opposed to the Alberta investigation unit reviewing the video evidence.
But Stamatakis said his viewing of the video simply confirms the evidence given in the investigation. He noted the evidence does not capture the events that led to the shooting.
"The easiest thing in the world to do is sit on the sidelines and second guess what police officers do when they're dealing with difficult situations," he said, noting the depth of the investigations conducted into the incident, including an inquest. "For someone to suggest that now, after all of that, something different should have been the outcome, I think is a bit off side."
David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the video will clarify any confusion about Boyd's final moments before Chipperfield fired the fatal shot.
"It's nice to have a fresh set of eyes on this," he said.
The VPD has referred comment on the case to the Alberta unit, which had not returned a message before the Courier's deadline. It's not clear whether the evidence will lead to the case being re-opened.