B.C.’s police watchdog will not recommend charges to Crown against RCMP officers in relation to a 2016 suicide in Terrace.
The incident occurred in the afternoon of Aug. 18, 2016, when Terrace RCMP responded to a 911 call from a woman outside Mills Memorial Hospital saying her boyfriend had cut himself with a hunter’s axe and was threatening to harm himself further, the Independent Investigations Office said in a report Friday.
Two Mounties used Tasers in an effort to apprehend the man, but he then quickly used the axe to cut his own neck. He died a short time later.
The coroner later identified him as 29-year-old Nicolas Allan Jeppesen.
The IIO BC based their decision in part on the statements of 12 civilian witnesses.
A poor-quality video taken by Jeppesen’s girlfriend from inside a police cruiser showed police keeping their distance as Jeppesen moved around the lot, according to the report. At one point an officer holstered his gun and pleaded for Jeppesen to drop the axe.
The officers said Jeppesen threatened to cut his throat if they used their Tasers, but after multiple threats to harm himself one of the officers used the device when it appeared Jeppesen was pushing the blade deeper into the skin. Jeppsesn then fell to the ground where he inflicted the two fatal cuts to his neck. The coroner’s report stated the wounds were consistent with intentional strokes, and not the accidental consequence of the fall.
After a brief struggle with Jeppesen officers attempted first aid. Within minutes he was taken inside for emergency medical treatment but died a short time later.
Despite Jeppesen’s warnings against the use of a Taser, the IIO concluded the officer’s deployment was appropriate in the circumstances under the Mental Health Act.
It may have been “criminally negligent” for the officers to not try to prevent the man from hurting himself, the report said. “In this case they had few options and used the Taser in an effort to disarm [the man] safely before he could hurt himself. There is no evidence [the officers] acted with reckless disregard for the life of [Jeppesen].”
The RCMP’s commanding officer in B.C., deputy commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr, issued a statement today saying the report offers some “much needed clarity to a dynamic situation.
“I am mindful the public was not aware that the individual sustained serious self-inflicted wounds and left may questioning whether our officers acted appropriately. We knew this information when the situation unfolded, but respected the request to not publicly disclose information about the self-inflicted wounds in order for the IIO BC investigation to take place without biasing any witnesses or evidence.”
Jeppesen, a father of two children who lived in Ontario at the time of his death, moved to Terrace after leaving the Canadian Army, according to his obituary.
The IIO BC investigates officer-involved incidents across the province that result in death or serious harm.
– With files from Ashley Wadhwani