TASER UPDATE: Police felt boy was danger to himself
The 11-year-old boy, who police used a Taser to subdue on April 7, had been brandishing a knife earlier in the stand-off.
However, when police actually subdued the boy, at a group home east of the city, the boy had a pen in his hand.
“On … previous two occasions when the boy had briefly appeared on the porch holding a knife, he had quickly dashed back into the house,” according to Chief Constable Peter Lepine of the West Vancouver Police Department. “Officers decided, based on this, that if the boy exited the house a third time, they would have a very brief window of opportunity to deploy the Taser in order to gain control of the boy and confiscate the knife. Officers believed that if deployment of the Taser was unsuccessful, that direct confrontation with the boy armed with a knife in close range could require use of lethal force, an option that the officers wanted to avoid.”
After a six-month investigation, the West Vancouver Police Department cleared local RCMP officers of any wrongdoing in the incident.
Police responded to a call that the boy had stabbed an adult at the home and then barricaded himself in the 8,000-square-foot building, where he had access to knives. When police arrived they were told that the boy was hearing impaired but was without his hearing aids; was prone to extremely violent outbursts, during which he exhibited extraordinary strength for his age and size, and presented a viable threat to his own safety as well as the safety of adults attempting to manage his outburst; would not back down from physical confrontation with adults and was likely a high risk to attack officers; that during past violent outbursts and physical confrontations, it had taken coordinated efforts by two adults to manage the situation while reducing the likelihood of injury to the boy or the adults; and that there were “warning signs” when he was about to have a violent outburst, one of those being when the boy made “the sign of the cross.”
Based on that information, police officers decided to take up a safe position on the property from which they could monitor the boy’s behaviour and devise a plan to safely take him into custody, said Lepine.
Police made contact with the boy a couple of times and, at one point, left some personal items for him on the porch, which the boy collected. According to Lepine, the officers could clearly see the boy had a knife.
“Officers observed him slashing his sweatshirt and running the knife blade over the palm of his hand and up and down his arms,” said Lepine. “Officers also observed him displaying his middle finger in their direction. Officers interpreted the gesture as a demonstration of the boy’s lack of respect for police and were aware that this would be a challenge for them in attempting to negotiate with him.”
Fearing that the boy may be a danger to himself and taking into account the boy’s capacity for extreme violence, officers decided to lure him out on the porch and use the Taser.
“After reviewing all of the information, including the SME’s opinion, it was clear to me that the officers involved responded to a dynamic, and potentially deadly incident, in a measured, appropriate and professional manner and that the level of force they planned for, and ultimately used, was commensurate with the overall threat presented,” said Lepine. “I understand and expect that there will be those who believe that my decision to publicize these details is an attempt to vilify the 11-year-old boy in order to exonerate the police. I can assure all of you that everyone involved in the original incident, as well as the investigation, was fully aware and sensitive to the fact that the police were dealing with a child. However, ultimately, the boy’s age was secondary to the fact that his apprehension was deemed necessary in order to prevent him from causing further grievous bodily harm or death.
“The WVPD investigation also concluded that if the officers had decided not to take overt action to apprehend the child quickly, they would likely have been subjected to harsh criticism for standing idly by while the child harmed himself or someone else. For this reason, and despite the understandable public reaction of shock, I not only deem the officers’ actions to be appropriate to the situation, I deem them commendable for their commitment to devising and carrying out a rational plan to resolve a potentially deadly situation.”