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Rauch family tells Victoria hearing they were kept in the dark following death

Police shot Lisa Rauch with an anti-riot weapon after she had barricaded herself in an apartment on Christmas Day of 2019, allegedly high on drugs and wielding a knife
rauch-courtyard
Lisa Rauch died after after being shot by police with a "less lethal" weapon at this supportive housing unit in 2019.

The family of a woman who died after Victoria police shot her with a "less lethal" weapon say they are not satisfied with both the investigation into her death and the way they have been communicated with. 

"In going through this process, we have learned these officers are not accountable to anyone," Lisa Rauch's mother Audrey said. 

Audrey Rauch alleges the family was treated poorly during the investigation and that some of the evidence seemed "exaggerated."

Rauch had barricaded herself in a supportive housing unit on Pandora Avenue on Christmas Day of 2019, allegedly high on methamphetamine and wielding a knife. She died after being shot by Victoria police officer Ron Kirkwood in the head with an Anti-Riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN), which fires plastic, barrel-shaped projectiles. 

A public hearing by Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) hearing is being held at the request of Rauch’s family and follows investigations by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) and the OPCC, both of which cleared Kirkwood of wrongdoing. This hearing began its final stages on Tuesday (July 9) to determine if the use of force was legitimate.

Several members of the Rauch family gave emotional and at times angry statements about the way they were treated and the lack of information they were provided throughout the investigation.

Audrey Rauch said it wasn't until a year after the incident the family knew Kirkwood's name, that the investigation reports were heavily redacted and difficult to understand, and that at one point they were told autopsy results may not be available to them for five years until a coroner's inquest was completed.

Family members were also told Rauch had ran at officers with a knife and was shot in the chest. Upon examination by doctors, the family found out later this was untrue; Rauch had in fact been about 15 feet away from police and behind a couch.

"The ICU physician who was treating Lisa disagreed and actually left the meeting to recheck Lisa's body to confirm her injuries," Audrey Rauch said. "Where did this untrue story originate?" 

Smoke from a fire in the apartment had obscured the officer's vision, according to testimony, Kirkwood shot Rauch in the back of the head thinking he was aiming at her abdomen.

The family also questioned whether evidence actually proved Rauch had a knife in her hand at the time, and why police assumed Rauch used an accelerant to light the fire in the apartment, but did not follow up with a fire investigation.

Audrey Rauch said much of this pointed to an "exaggeration" by police of the actions of her daughter and the danger of the situation.

The adjudicator for this hearing is Wally Oppal, a former B.C. Supreme Court Justice and former B.C. attorney general. He urged these allegation be addressed, ideally by the IIO. 

"You just simply can't ignore these comments, particularly the way the family was treated after the event," Oppal said. "I found the comments to be disturbing, upsetting."

The hearings centres on two separate issues: Whether Kirkwood's use of force was justified, and if he committed dereliction of duty when he invoked his charter rights and decided not to take notes or make a statement in the immediate aftermath, should a criminal investigation into the shooting occur and those statements be used against him.

It was decided on Tuesday the note-taking issue would be separated into a second hearing, to be held in September, while the use-of-force issue would be wrapped up this week.

The sentiment among counsel at the hearing was the comments from the family could perhaps be addressed at the September hearing when a representative from the IIO would be present.

"It would be good to have some answers," Oppal said.

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About the Author: Mark Page

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