Hearing begins into death of B.C. woman shot with police plastic bullets

A public hearing began Monday into the circumstances surrounding the death of a woman following an interaction with Victoria police more than four years ago.

Lisa Rauch, 43, died several days after being shot in the head with plastic bullets on Christmas Day 2019.

“We’ve been waiting four years for some sort of closure,” Lisa’s father Ron Rauch told Global News.

“Hopefully after three weeks of this (hearing) we will be able to put some closure onto the whole situation — it has been very difficult, and I am sure hearing all of this stuff again is going to be very difficult for the whole family.”

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Officers had been responding to a call about a woman acting aggressively at her Victoria social housing unit.

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Responding officers fired three rounds from an ARWEN, a so-called “less lethal” projectile launcher, knocking her unconscious. She later died in hospital.

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A probe by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), B.C.’s civilian police watchdog, concluded that there were no reasonable grounds to find an officer had committed an offence, citing the severity of the situation.

Last year, however, B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) called for a public hearing led by a retired judge to review the incident.

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Rauch’s family says they have eight pages worth of unanswered questions they want dealt with.

Her mother, Audrey Rauch, said the IIO told the family Lisa had rushed an officer while holding a knife, and that police shot her because they had no choice.

“It was not until 10 months later that we found out that she had been sitting on a couch with her back to them when they came in and shot her three times in the back of the head. That’s pretty hard to take,” Audrey Rauch said.

“The ARWEN was manufactured as a medium-range weapon. It’s a riot-control weapon — you use it in a prison riot, you don’t go into a tiny little suite and shoot somebody three times in the back of the head from 15 feet away.”

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In its investigation, the IIO concluded Rauch was intoxicated and had threatened residents at the housing facility before a fire broke out in a suite where she was barricaded, and that police were required to use force to end the situation.

In calling the hearing, the OPCC said a Police Act investigation by another police force had not been able to substantiate two allegations of misconduct related to use of force and failure to document the incident.

But it said Rauch’s family had sought the hearing, citing inconsistencies in information they had received from the investigations.

“How about police investigating police? It can’t happen. It just cannot happen. You just cannot have another police department investigating a police department,” Ron Rauch said.

“This has been going on and on and on for years now, and nothing seems to happen,” added Lisa’s sister Kelly Ruach.

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“We don’t get clarification, we don’t get transparency, and that is very, very difficult when you are dealing with the violent death of your family member.”

In a statement, Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said the incident had already been reviewed by three levels of oversight, none of which found wrongdoing.

Audrey Rauch said she would like to see her daughter’s case result in more restrictions on the use of ARWEN weapons.

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