Years after Myles Gray died following a violent confrontation with police in a backyard near the Vancouver/Burnaby border, his family will get a moment to speak to the officers who responded that day.
Gray’s sister is among the speakers for the first day of the coroner’s inquest in Burnaby on Monday. Other speakers include Vancouver Police officers who responded to the call in August 2015.
Melissa Gray says she was very close to her big brother and had seen him just a few weeks before he died. She says her brother had a history of bipolar disorder but had been taking his medication.
“It was uncharacteristic of him to act bizarrely,” she said.
Police were called to the property over reports a man was confronting a homeowner over allegedly watering their lawn during the drought.
Gray, 33, died following a struggle with several police officers. He went into cardiac arrest and a later investigation revealed he had suffered several extensive injuries.
The incident was investigated by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), and the police watchdog determined that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe the officers “may have committed offences” and submitted a report to the BC Prosecution Service for charge approval as a result.
However, the BC Prosecution Service concluded that the evidence did not meet its standards for charges.
“Toxicology evidence revealed that Mr. Gray had ingested Mitragynine (a drug commonly known as Kratom) before his death. The forensic pathologist who conducted the post-mortem examination and other experts could not exclude the possibility that Mr. Gray’s death was caused solely by factors unrelated to the use of force by police, specifically, by the ingestion of the Mitragynine or by the condition known as ‘excited delirium,'” a statement from BC Prosecution Service regarding the decision from 2020 reads in part.
An ongoing internal investigation into seven of the officer’s conduct could result in job loss or disciplinary action, pending the results of a review.
There were no other witnesses besides police officers at the time of his death, and no video evidence. However, witnesses who spoke with Gray before his death will be called to speak at the inquest.
Members of the Pivot Legal Society gathered ahead of the start of the inquest in Metrotown to call for justice for Gray and his family.
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Pivot also put out a statement on behalf of the family.
“The Gray family is grateful to the Coroner that this is finally proceeding. Myles was Margie and Mark’s son, and Melissa’s brother. He died in circumstances that require a public accounting, which will now begin. The family sincerely hopes that the evidence and recommendations will lead the Attorney General to pass legislation which requires police to account in a timely fashion for their actions. It is indeed disturbing to read reports that the Union counselled VPD members to ignore their statutory and common law responsibilities,” the statement reads in part.
The inquest itself is expected to last 10 days.
Coroner’s inquests are not for the purpose of fault-finding, only fact-finding, and the jury is prevented from making any findings that imply a legal responsibility by law. The purpose is to find the facts of the death, and in some cases make recommendations for preventing similar deaths in the future.