The public now knows better why two Quesnel RCMP members each fired a bullet into the vehicle occupied by David Manlove (also known as Baker).
What still isn’t known is why one of those officers fired more than 20 others after that - with 11 bullets striking and killing Manlove in the summer of 2021.
Automatically, police-involved shootings trigger a probe by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). Their report into this event was released on Feb. 10.
The investigators confirmed that police were entirely justified to open fire, because Manlove clearly picked up a shotgun, visibly chambered a round, and pulled the trigger. The independent examination concluded that Mounties did not act with recklessness or haste throughout this swift chain of events, and had every right to respond with firearms when presented with clear danger of death or grievous bodily harm.
However, the conduct of one RCMP shooter did cause investigators concern.
The eight-page report walked the public through the events.
It happened in the very early hours of Aug. 31, 2021. It was dark and raining. According to corroborative video evidence, in addition to police information, Manlove parked his SUV in a spot between the Legion and Seniors’ Centre near the intersection of Carson Avenue and Kinchant Street. It was 1:41 a.m. and Manlove went to sleep there with the engine running. This was further confirmed by an eye-witness passerby.
Police were initially invetigating a suspicious vehicle that had earlier fled from police when they noticed the vehicle at 3:17 a.m. First one and then two other RCMP vehicles moved in with red and blue lights engaged to surround the SUV within a few minutes.
Manlove was the subject of an arrest warrant. He was also well known to police as a drug dealer who had a history of weapon possession. When first approached, police noted that a shotgun was evident on the right side of Manlove who was still sleeping. Manlove was, at the time, prohibited by court order from being in possession of weapons.
The IIO never refers to Manlove by name, calling him only Affected Person or AP, in their eight-page report. Previous reports by other parties provide the knowledge that this is Manlove’s case. The report does not name any of the RCMP members, either, only assigns them a number for the purpose of the report’s narrative. There were Witness Officers (WO) who were at the scene but participated as backups and two Subject Officers (SO) who participated with active engagement. Each was identified by a number, in the description of the events.
“The police plan was to cover the Jeep (Manlove’s vehicle), blocked in by police vehicles, to call AP out and to get him down on the ground to be arrested,” the report said.
Manlove was awoken from his sleep, and SO2 instructed him repeatedly “Do not reach for the gun, step out of your vehicle, show me your hands.”
Dispatch recordings picked up another RCMP voice at the scene say “he’s reaching” while another voice (presumably SO2 giving his compliance commands) is heard shouting in the background. Police did not open fire at this point, but continue to instruct Manlove to comply. WO2 confirmed that Manlove appeared, from their position also, to be reaching for the shotgun.
WO1 reported to the IIO that SO2 was then heard saying “He’s reaching for something,” and then heard SO1 say “He’s loading his gun.” Another RCMP member also verbalized that the AP was loading the firearm.
Still, RCMP did not open fire.
That changed when a muffled blast was heard.
“WO2 said that about 30 to 40 seconds later, he heard a shot,” said the report.
“WO1 described hearing the initial shot shortly after SO1 said ‘he is loading his gun,’ and then hearing numerous other gunshots in response. He said he believed the initial shot came from the Jeep.”
More police arrived at the scene and WO3 said “Subject appears down. All members hold.”
WO4 approached the vehicle with others and, said the report, “described finding AP unresponsive, in the driver’s seat, holding a black pump-action shotgun.” WO3 reached in and removed the shotgun. Others moved in and determined Manlove was hit and unresponsive.
The sunroof of the vehicle had been shattered, and a spent shotgun shell was in the chamber. It appeared as though the gun in Manlove’s hand was the reason for the damaged sunroof, and forensic examination determined that the shotgun had definitely been fired inside the SUV, but whether the discharge was accidental or on purpose will never be known.
The report explains that once the shotgun blast was heard, police understood that they were now under fire, and shooting back was natural use of force.
“In the darkness and rain, it was reasonable for them to think that AP was shooting at them. When a police officer (or any person, for that matter) has the reasonable belief that a person has fired a gun at them, even if it misses, it is entirely reasonable to take action to prevent that person from taking another shot that might be on target,” said the report.
Two RCMP members did the shooting on behalf of the police assembled. Manlove was struck 11 times. SO1 fired twice, re-positioned, and held further fire. SO2 fired so many rounds the weapon’s magazine was empty and the officer reloaded and continued. Two of those bullets struck sites nowhere near the subject in the front seat.
While the IIO concluded that the first shot fired by SO2 was justified, rendering subsequent justification a moot point, the report called the barrage of bullets into question on that member’s personal level, calling so much shooting apparently “unrestrained, with little evidence of situational reassessment,” with the stray bullets indicating “a lack of weapon control on SO2’s part.” The report added that “I must ask whether it makes sense for SO2 to continue shooting somewhere between 26 to 29 rounds in a relatively short period of time.”
Such behaviour could easily be construed as excessive use of force, had the situation been different in some way, the IIO surmised. But it was not a criminal act, in this context, nor was the conduct of any RCMP member in that incident considered outside the bounds of proper policing conduct, based on the evidence of the case.
The report was signed by Ronald J. MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.