WARNING: This story includes details that readers may find distressing.
In the minutes before Daniel Peter Rintoul entered a Vancouver Canadian Tire on Nov. 10, 2016, and violently attacked multiple people inside, he paused for a moment near the entrance and leaned against a stack of merchandise, appearing to collect himself.
Surveillance footage shown Monday (Oct. 31) to the jury of a coroner’s inquest into Rintoul’s police-involved death, shows the camo-clad, over 400-pound man enter the East Vancouver store in the afternoon.
It was just after 3 p.m. when the 38-year-old ascended the escalator to the second floor and past a Christmas tree on display, through the sporting goods section and to the guns desk.
Department manager Stephen Frizzell was there with another employee and a visiting sales representative. He told the jury Monday he couldn’t remember exactly what Rintoul said as he approached them, but it was something along the lines of “give me the guns.” Frizzell recalled thinking it must be a joke before he and the two men with him were hit with bear spray.
As Rintoul came around the desk, one employee used a rifle to try and push him back, but surveillance footage shows Rintoul pulled a knife from his pants and sliced the employee along his neck. Rintoul then turned to the gun case. He managed to break it open but couldn’t seem to load ammunition into any guns, and headed away with just his bear spray and knife in hand.
‘Just do what I say and you’ll be okay’
It was about at the same time that an elderly man named Harry Burderer reached the second floor of the Canadian Tire himself, on his way to buy some bicycle parts after a morning ride.
“I saw a pool of blood on the floor and a man down,” Burderer recalled in a video interview with investigators, shown to the jury Tuesday. Burderer has since died and couldn’t testify in person.
“The next thing, I hear this person holler at me ‘Get back down, get back down!’” Burderer told investigators. So he said he turned back into the elevator and retreated to the first floor, where unfortunate timing put him face-to-face with Rintoul who had just descended the escalator.
“Next thing he had this arm around me and he showed me his knife – just a little small one – and then I think he said to me ‘Just do what I say and you’ll be okay’,” Burderer recalled.
Rintoul walked the elderly man through the store and to the exit. Just outside, two Vancouver police officers were approaching.
“I feared for my life.”
Const. Gary Li told the jury Wednesday that as he neared the Canadian Tire that day he was aware of a few things: He and his colleague, Const. Justin Fraser, were attending a potentially violent robbery, that the suspect was a very large bald man in camouflage and that there was a crowd of about 20 to 30 customers gathered in close proximity outside the store.
Li said when he saw Rintoul exit the Canadian Tire with a hostage in hand, he displaced his Taser and demanded that Rintoul stop, but instead the man raised his arm and shot bear spray at the officers.
Li quickly deployed his Taser in response and saw Rintoul fall to the ground. Knowing the shock would only be effective for about five seconds, both constables quickly attempted to handcuff Rintoul, Li told the jury. The two weren’t fast enough, though, and Rintoul soon began to fight back.
Bystander video shown to the jury shows one officer – who Li identified as himself – started punching Rintoul in the face. The video also shows another man, identified as Canadian Tire’s loss prevention officer, repeatedly kicking Rintoul in his crotch.
Neither action was enough to subdue the large man and Rintoul managed to grab his knife and stab Fraser.
It was at this point that Li said he made the split-second decision to use his gun. He fired four shots at Rintoul, each of which he would later learn struck their target.
“I believed that he was going to kill me or harm the bystanders behind me. At that point I feared for my life or the life of others,” Li told the jury. He added that the bear spray was starting to impact his vision and he feared if he didn’t act then he wouldn’t be able to see clearly enough to defend himself.
‘Finish me off!’
In the bystander video, Rintoul is heard moaning in pain and yelling over and over again, “Finish me off! Finish me off!”
More police officers arrived then and, as Rintoul made one more effort to get up, another series of gunshots went off in the video. Rintoul is seen turning over onto his stomach before he becomes still.
A February 2019 report from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. revealed Rintoul was shot a total of nine times and Tasered four times. The civilian-led office, which investigates all officer-involved incidents that result in serious harm or death, determined there was no wrongdoing on the part of police. The watchdog said officers’ actions were reasonable and necessary given the danger of the situation.
The coroner’s inquest doesn’t seek to determine wrongdoing, but rather reviews the details of a death to determine its cause and to produce recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future. Rintoul’s inquest is scheduled to run until Nov. 10.