British Columbia’s police watchdog agency says a woman caught up in a recent hostage situation in Surrey was shot dead by officers as they sought to resolve the situation.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) disclosed the information for the first time on Thursday as they issued an update on their probe of the March 29 confrontation.
During the incident, an armed man at the scene was also shot dead by officers.
“We thought, at this point, it was important to alert the public,” Ron MacDonald, chief civilian director for the office, said in an interview on Thursday.
He said it was important for the families involved to know this detail, which has become clear through an ongoing investigation, and that it was inevitably necessary to release it to the public as well.
Mr. MacDonald said there have been incidents previously where actions of police have injured third parties, but he was not aware of a case like this where a hostage was killed as a result of police conduct.
According to police statements issued in March, RCMP responded to a house on the evening of March 28 to a report of a man with a gun and a possible hostage situation.
After police evacuated nearby homes and properties, the Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team arrived to help, and at 7:30 a.m. on March 29 entered the home after efforts to peacefully resolve the standoff failed.
Police said the man on the scene died as a result of a fatal gunshot wound.
But police said the female victim was found in the home with “serious injuries," given first aid by officers at the scene and later died at hospital.
On Thursday, Mr. MacDonald said the woman was shot twice.
“What occurred in the home is what might be termed as a very dynamic situation," he said.
“It’s fair to say that what happens in this type of situation is it’s very fast moving. There are a lot of decisions that are made in a very short period of time. That’s what I mean by a very dynamic situation.”
The victims of the March 29 incident have yet to be officially identified.
Initially, 10 of about 24 investigators at the IIO were working on the case, but that has been scaled back, Mr. MacDonald said.
Office investigators have interviewed more than 40 people so far, including civilians and police witnesses, as part of an investigation that has also included obtaining and analyzing forensic data, Mr. MacDonald said.
The director said it is not yet clear which officer fired the shots that killed the hostage, and that point is subject to further investigation. He said several officers fired shots.
He said the investigation, including further interviews, is expected to take several more months.
Sergeant Janelle Shoihet, media relations officer for the RCMP in British Columbia, said in a statement that the force is aware of the investigation “and are co-operating as appropriate."
She said it is providing support to members of the force directly and indirectly affected by the incident.
“To maintain the integrity of the IIO investigation, we will not be providing further comments at this time,” she said in her statement.