Police watchdog says Surrey cops ‘did everything they could’ to save woman on balcony

Incident happened at a Guildford apartment complex in August 2019

Four Surrey RCMP officers have been cleared by the B.C. police watchdog after a woman fell to her death from a Guildford apartment balcony in August 2019.

In a report from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. Wednesday (Jan. 8), Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald said he doesn’t “consider that there are any reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment.” The matter will not be referred to Crown counsel to consider charges.

MacDonald said officers “did everything they could to prevent” the woman from “allowing herself to fall from the balcony.”

She died at the scene.

READ ALSO: Police watchdog called into Surrey after woman dies in balcony fall, Aug. 13, 2019

READ ALSO: Second police-involved incident in 24 hours probed in Surrey, Aug. 14, 2019

On Aug. 13, 2019, four Surrey RCMP officers responded to a woman who called 911, “saying she was going to commit suicide by jumping from her ninth floor balcony,” according to the IIO report.

Officers knocked on her door, “but she did not respond.” An officer downstairs saw the woman sit up on the balcony railing, and he called to the others to update them.

Upstairs, officers knocked down her door and an officer saw her on the balcony.

“She rolled back with her hands still gripping the top rail. (He) ran forward through the apartment, ‘and I reached my arm out and I tried grabbing anything,’ but by the time he reached the balcony he was too late.”

A pedestrian also saw the fall.

The report states that the officers at ground level were trying to help the woman and had called to update paramedics.

The woman was “not breathing,” and one officer started chest compressions. Another officer brought an automatic external defibrillator, but it indicated “shock not recommended.”

When the paramedics arrived, “they were not able to resuscitate” the woman and she was “subsequently declared deceased from her injuries.”

IIO states the purpose of any investigation is to “determine whether there are reasonable ground to believe that an officer, through action or inaction, may have committed any offence in relation to the incident that led to the resulting death or serious harm.”

MacDonald said there is “no evidence capable of suggesting that any officer directly caused” the woman’s death.

“The duty of all involved officers was to take whatever steps they reasonably could to prevent (the woman) from committing suicide – as she had clearly indicated she intended to do – and to preserve her life,” he states.

MacDonald said when the officer realized that they would be unable to get any response from the woman through her door, and received the news that she had climbed up on the balcony railing, “he was faced with a conundrum.”

MacDonald said the officer “had to make the choice between continuing to attempt communication from the hallway in the hope that (the woman) would not jump, and forcibly entering her home in the hope that an officer could reach her in time to pull her back to safety.”

“He chose to act, and judging from the evidence (the officer) came very close to saving (the woman’s) life,” MacDonald said. “There is nothing in the evidence to suggest that (the woman) would not have let herself fall from the balcony if police had remained outside the hallway. She was clearly on the very point of doing so before they entered.”

MacDonald said the “no aspect” of the officers decision to enter the apartment “can reasonably be seen as amounting to an offence.”

“On the contrary, they were entirely reasonable,” MacDonald said. “Situations such as this are challenging for the officers involved.”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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