Review of Matters case
not closed yet
DECISION REVERSED: Police watchdog boss appoints outside
monitor after a complaint of the probe into ex-soldier’s death
Sam Cooper, Vancouver Province, June 18, 2014
In a supplementary internal review of the Greg Matters case that was released in June, the director of B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office, Richard Rosenthal, said there was no new evidence suggesting any of the officers involved may have committed a criminal offence.
But Rosenthal’s internal review appeared not to address a number of concerning allegations on procedure made by the lead investigator in the Matters case, former RCMP homicide detective Robin Stutt.
Last Friday, during a lengthy interview regarding these allegations filed by Stutt to deputy attorney general Richard Fyfe, Rosenthal told The Province he is convinced of the integrity of the Matters investigation and no external review is needed.
But on Monday, Rosenthal reversed his position and announced the appointment of a civilian monitor, stating: “I have received a complaint forwarded to me by the deputy attorney general that raises a number of questions with respect to the investigation into the death of Mr. Matters.”
In documents, Stutt paints a picture of a unit in disarray when investigators were flown to Prince George in September 2012. Matters’ death was the IIO’s first case, and problems quickly mounted, according to Stutt.
The IIO eventually found that moments prior to his fatal shooting, Matters pulled out a concealed hatchet when an RCMP emergency response team attempted to arrest him on his family’s property.
Matters— a former soldier who was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder—was shot twice when he allegedly threatened an ERT member with a hatchet. The RCMP was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
In documents, Stutt alleges that Rosenthal unduly influenced the Matters investigation.
Rosenthal first reported in April 2013 that an ERT member “shot Mr. Matters with two bullets to the chest.”
A coroner’s inquest later found that Matters was shot twice in the back.
Stutt claims that following the Matters autopsy he “requested that findings be reviewed by a bio-mechanical engineer in an effort to determine the path of the bullets through Mr. Matters and the trajectory from which they were fired. My request was dismissed.”
In an interview with The Province, Rosenthal said that he made no errors in judging the forensic evidence in this case. The IIO found that the officer who shot Matters was not defending himself, but protecting the life of another officer. This, according to Rosenthal, is why he did not judge it important to report the direction of the shots.
“I did not feel that the trajectory (of bullets) was very relevant because this was not an issue of self-defence,” Rosenthal said.
Stutt’s complaint points to concerns about evidence in the Matters investigation—for example, that the IIO could not obtain physical evidence connecting Matters to the hatchet. Also, Stutt writes, the hatchet allegedly held by Matters was moved by officers after Matters was shot.
Stutt writes that he still believes the IIO eventually made the right choice in exonerating RCMP ERT members. It is the way the investigation unfolded that raises serious questions, according to Stutt.
The IIO appeared to be breaching the Police Act guidelines under which it was created, Stutt alleges. He questions whether two top IIO employees were improperly involved in the Matters probe. One, who has left the IIO, had not been out of the B.C. RCMP for five years. The other was still collecting an RCMP salary.
In the interview, Rosenthal firmly denied all allegations made by Stutt.
“I gave instructions to people on how to remain unbiased,” Rosenthal said. “There was no information suppression whatsoever.” Regarding the employment of two supervisors that Stutt alleges was a breach of IIO rules, Rosenthal denied any “breach” of the Police Act. Rosenthal said the former RCMP members were employed as special advisers.
“I sent them both up to Prince George to assist investigators,” Rosenthal said. “I was not aware of any issues or conflicts in that regard.”
Stutt’s complaint says that he was dismissed from the IIO without cause in 2014. When reached by The Province, Stutt said he would not comment.