Paul Boyd was a gentle, gifted artist who battled mental illness and was suffering from paranoid delusions on the night he was shot and killed by Vancouver police, his family says.
In a statement issued at a police press briefing yesterday, Mr. Boyd's family described the 39-year-old as a successful animator who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his early 20s.
"He was friendly, intelligent, gentle, humorous and compassionate ... most of the time he was well and few would have guessed that he suffered from any kind of mental disorder," his family said. "But, periodically he would suffer periods of mania and depression which could produce vivid paranoid delusions that made him fear imagined threats."
Mr. Boyd managed his condition with constant medical treatment, but was in the midst of one of these episodes the night he was gunned down, his family says.
On Aug. 13, police say they received a 911 call that two men were assaulting another man at about 9:30 p.m. When two officers arrived on Granville Street between 15th and 16th avenues, they found Mr. Boyd lying on a bench next to a bus stop.
The officers could see Mr. Boyd was holding a claw hammer, which they asked him to put down. He complied. When the officers approached Mr. Boyd to arrest him, he jumped up and started swinging a padlock and chain, striking one officer in the head and knocking him to the ground. Police say Mr. Boyd struck another officer before charging at three more.
At that point, police said, the officers moved back about a half-block, then shot and killed Mr. Boyd. Witnesses say that about eight gunshots were fired.
"His actions during his last tragic moments on earth were not part of his personality, but were a result of the irrational fear produced by his illness," the family statement said.
Mr. Boyd's family members were not identified, and said they did not want to give interviews.
Niamh McKenzie, who lived in the same West 12th apartment complex as Mr. Boyd for the past three years, described him as polite and soft-spoken. She said he kept to himself, but was friendly and light-hearted. When neighbours found out Mr. Boyd had been killed, they were shocked, she said.
"I was totally surprised," Ms. McKenzie said. "It didn't seem like he was the type of guy that would happen to. He was really friendly."
When asked why officers didn't use a less lethal force, such as a taser, police said the two officers didn't have tasers.
Last week, Police Chief Jim Chu told reporters the officers took the option they needed to take.
But Jonathan Menzies, who witnessed the incident from a city bus, said Mr. Boyd was on his knees when the final shots were fired.
"At some point, he's just slumping back and trying to get up, and slumping back, but the officer just kept on shooting him," said the 29-year-old arborist.
The Vancouver Police professional standards department - formerly internal affairs - is conducting an internal investigation.
"Speaking with investigators this morning, they've spoken with over two dozen witnesses so far," said Constable Howard Chow. "There's still about 20 in the queue waiting to be spoken to and interviewed."
He also asked that a witness who may have been recording video of the incident come forward and speak with investigators.
When the investigation is complete, the RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team will review it. The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner is also monitoring the situation, and the coroner's department is expected to conduct an inquiry. But, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Pivot Legal Society are calling for a separate, civilian review.
Constable Chow would not identify the officer who fired the fatal shots, but said he is still on active duty. The other officer involved, who was struck and incapacitated during the incident, is recovering, Constable Chow said.
Yesterday, near the site where Mr. Boyd died, about 10 bouquets of flowers were tied to a light pole. The words, "In memoriam, much admired and missed by many" were scrawled in marker on a blue piece of paper above it. Also posted were signs that read, "This was an execution in front of young people on a bus."
However, his family had a different perspective on Mr. Boyd's tragic end.
"His death means that he will never again have to face the struggle of regaining normality and getting on with his life."