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Would have been ‘unlawful’ to arrest suicidal Langley man: watchdog

Officers cleared in January death
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Officers would have acted illegally if they took a Langley man into custody for threatening suicide B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has ruled. The man later killed himself. (Back Press Media files)

Langley RCMP officers would have acted illegally if they took a man into custody for threatening suicide, B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has ruled. The man, identified only as AP, killed himself a few days after police visited in January.

A Monday, May 27 decision released by the police watchdog shows officers visited AP twice after he texted his mother to say “I am done and I can’t do this anymore” and she contacted RCMP to advise her son had attempted suicide in the past.

During the first visit by an RCMP officer on Jan. 10, AP insisted he was “merely expressing frustration at academic studies in which he was engaged, as well as other difficulties in his life,” the IIO review summarized.

A previous IIO statement said AP was living in the 20200-block of 66 Avenue at the time.

AP said he was taking his medications properly, showed the officer the meds “laid out in an orderly manner” and agreed to call for help if he required it.

Less than an hour later, a social worker reported receiving emails from the man threatening suicide.

When two Langley officers returned to his home later that day, AP insisted the email was referring to actions to be taken in the future, in the event of his death, “not a plan to die shortly.”

READ ALSO: IIO investigates Langley man’s death after RCMP wellness calls

He had been drinking, and one of the officers convinced him to pour out the remaining alcohol to avoid further escalation, the report said.

According to the RCMP members, AP was “evidently intelligent and insightful, was able to respond to all their concerns, and all their questions in a plausible and reassuring manner.”

The next day, on Jan. 11, an officer spoke with the AP’s mother, who later told the IIO she did not have any concern that he was in immediate danger of self-harm at that time.

Another family member, who spoke with AP that same day, said there was “no suggestion that he was in imminent danger.”

But when the mother was unable to contact her son, police returned to the home on Jan., 14 and found AP dead from apparent suicide.

IIO Interim chief civilian director Sandra J. Hentzen ruled the officers “did everything they reasonably could to test him for present suicidal intention and he passed the tests. It appears that not only was [he] able to conceal his true intent from the police, but he was also able to deceive close family members in the time between the officers’ visits and his eventual death.”

Officers did not have sufficient grounds to apprehend AP under the Mental Health Act based on their personal observations, Hentzen said.

“It would in fact have been unlawful for them to proceed with an apprehension and it was appropriate for them not to do so.”

Accordingly “the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges,” Hentzen ruled.

READ ALSO: Head of B.C.’s police watchdog retiring, says ‘it’s time to move on’

If you feel like you are in crisis or are considering suicide, please call the Crisis Centre BC suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.

Other resources include: Canada Suicide Prevention Service at Toll free: 1-833-456-4566. You can also text 45645 or visit the online chat service at crisisservicescanada.ca.

Some warning signs include suicidal thoughts, anger, recklessness, mood changes, anxiety, lack of purpose, helplessness and substance use.



Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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