De Groot family still waiting for inquest after 2014 Slocan shooting

Lawyer for Peter De Groot’s family say many questions remain unanswered

Peter De Groot. File photo

Five years after the death of Peter de Groot in a police shooting near Slocan, his family is still waiting for the province to schedule an inquest into his death.

An inquest must be held if a person died “while detained by or in the custody of a police officer,” according B.C.’s Coroners Act.

The 45-year-old Slocan resident allegedly fired a shot at police on Oct. 9, 2014 when officers responded to an argument between de Groot and another person.

De Groot then fled into the bush, and three days after the initial encounter was shot and killed by an officer after de Groot allegedly drew his firearm while hiding in a remote cabin.

The family’s lawyer, Don Sorochan, says there are many unknowns about how de Groot died, including whether he was shot from the front or the back, the position of the body on the floor when and after he was shot, and how immediate his death was.

This information would come out in an inquest. It was not included in the April 2018, report by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the body that investigates whenever a person is killed or injured by a police officer.

In this case the IIO investigated and cleared the police officers of using excessive force. The investigation was notable because of the refusal of the shooting officer, RCMP Cpl. Brian Burke, to talk to IIO investigators. The IIO report therefore does not include the perspective of the only person who saw De Groot die.

Sorochan says the missing pathology information is complicated because two pathologists were involved in the case — one hired by the coroner and another hired by the family — and each had differing opinions on the details of the death including whether he was shot from the front or the back. But the details of that disagreement are not known.

Sorochan wants access to that information before the inquest and has been unable to get it, even though after the IIO decided to exonerate Burke, Sorochan says he got a consent court order to get the pathology information.

“I was supposed to get all of the evidence, but the B.C. Coroners Service is interfering with me getting all the evidence,” he said.

He also needs the pathology information in order to conduct the family’s civil lawsuit against the RCMP, which is being held in abeyance until after the inquest.

Why is it taking so long for the Coroners Service to schedule an inquest?

Sorochan doesn’t know, and the Coroners Service won’t tell the Star, nor will they say when an inquest might be scheduled.

“We would have to make sure all other processes are concluded,” Andy Watson of the Coroners Service told the Star. “We would need to contact all the people we would need to make this work, then announce it publicly.”

An inquest did not happen immediately after the death of de Groot because it had to wait until the conclusion of the IIO investigation.

Meanwhile, Burke is suing the IIO because of the time it took to conduct its investigation. His lawsuit asserts that the delay resulted from the IIO’s failure to use properly trained experts and that it didn’t gather all the relevant evidence.

The purpose of a coroner’s inquest is to determine the facts relating to a death, not to assign guilt or blame. A coroner’s jury makes recommendations with the aim of preventing future loss of life in similar circumstances.

Sorochan expects the inquest will try to restrict its deliberations to only the incident at the cabin, as did the IIO. But he thinks the IIO should have considered the circumstances that led to the manhunt in the first place — and so should the eventual inquest.

“As far as I am concerned it should include the start of the thing, and why the police were even there bothering him in the first place.”

In a strangely parallel situation, an inquest has just begun in Prince George five years after police shot and killed John Beuhler in a remote cabin near Valemount in 2014 (the same year de Groot was killed). The IIO investigated, found the police not at fault, and an inquest was not scheduled for 18 months.

Related:

• Officer who killed Slocan man sues watchdog, alleges investigation too long

• De Groot family slams investigation report

• RCMP cleared in death of De Groot

• Sister of man killed in Slocan manhunt sues RCMP

• Family still awaits decision on West Kootenay police shooting



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grand Forks halves tax increase amid COVID-19

Council also voted to delay implementing increases to utilities until the fall

Snowpack measurements ‘promising’: RDKB

Measurements show Boundary snowpack just high of average range

Don’t travel to vacation homes or cabins, urges Kootenay Boundary district

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary asks residents not to travel to secondary homes

Grand Forks and Boundary cancellations, changes due to COVID-19

This newspaper’s list of community events, institutions that change or cancel due to pandemic

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read