The Independent Investigation Office has cleared Langley RCMP of any wrong-doing in a fatal crash on 16 Avenue that killed 47-year-old Victor Duarte on Oct. 29.
Duarte, a beloved father and husband from Delta, was killed instantly when the driver of a pickup truck who was fleeing from police drove into an intersection, hitting another vehicle, which in turn hit Duarte’s vehicle.
Duarte’s wife has been given the IIO’s report and has asked for privacy, said IIO Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal on Friday. He made the report and spoke to its conclusions at a press conference in Surrey.
Langley RCMP traffic services was conducting a speed check and Automated Licence Reader enforcement project in the 24000 block of 0 Avenue after residents in the area had complained of speeding.
Around 5:30 p.m., the ALPR identified a passing vehicle, a dark green pickup truck, as being associated to a prohibited driver. That pickup was flagged down by officers and directed to pull over.
Officers attempted to pull the truck over and the driver fled the scene.
Rosenthal said he wouldn’t be releasing the speed of the truck because that is part of a criminal investigation into the driver’s actions.
Two police vehicles pursued the truck, with emergency lights on, travelling more than 100 km/hr on a 60 km/hr road.
But according to the IIO report, the lead vehicle discontinued the pursuit in 36 seconds. The officer deciding to pull over and turn off the lights instead, judging the pursuit as fruitless.
Still, less than three minutes later, a collision involving the pickup truck and two other vehicles took place, leaving Duarte dead and the suspect truck driver seriously injured, said the IIO. Police later said he is a 27-year-old Chilliwack man.
The IIO immediately took over jurisdiction into the actions of the involved Langley RCMP officers. Six IIO investigators went to the scene and two more were brought in for the investigation.
“I’ve concluded there is no criminal violation on part of the officers involved,” said Rosenthal.
He stressed that the role of the IIO is not RCMP policy, in regards to police pursuits, but whether or not there are reasons to pursue criminal charges on the part of police involved.
“Whether or not these officers followed RCMP policy is up to the RCMP,” he said.
Rosenthal said because Langley RCMP continue to investigate and possibly lay criminal charges against the truck driver, he won’t be releasing the names of the officers involved or the suspect driver.
The IIO interviewed witnesses, obtained copies of the radio communications that took place between the involved officers as well as computer aided dispatch records and video footage from the RCMP patrol vehicles.
The RCMP officer who was the lead vehicle in the short pursuit provided a voluntary written statement to the IIO. The second officer who was driving behind the lead vehicle declined to provide a statement.
Just like anyone else, the officers are allowed to refuse to give a statement to the IIO.
This is the first investigation in Langley conducted by the IIO. They took over investigating police-related deaths several months ago. Prior to that, police conducted their own investigations.
The IIO currently hase 11 files, and has closed three.