No charges will be laid against the four members of the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) who were involved in the shooting and death of 51-year-old John Buehler.
Last week, the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB), the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General released a statement saying no charges will be laid in regards to the Sept. 17, 2014 shooting that took place southeast of Valemount, near Kinbasket Lake.
“Several ERT officers fired shots during the course of arresting an armed suspect,” the statement reads.
“The suspect was killed, and another armed individual was seriously wounded,” it says, referring to Buehler’s daughter who was wounded.
The possible Criminal Code offences considered in this case against the RCMP officers consisted of Murder, Attempted Murder, Assault, Assault Causing Bodily Harm, Aggravated Assault, Discharging a Firearm with Intent to Wound, and Careless Use of a Firearm, according to the Criminal Justice Branch.
The other individual who was shot has since been identified as John Buehler’s daughter, Shanna Buehler, who lived through the incident and has had charges laid against her.
In May, Shanna pleaded not guilty in Valemount Court to seven charges including threatening to use a weapon, pointing a firearm, unauthorized possession of a firearm, and break and enter. The charges stem from the day she and her father were shot.
The Crown has dropped earlier charges sworn against Shanna in September 2014.
Shanna Buehler has elected trial by judge and jury, however no definitive timeline has been set.
John and Shanna were squatting in a local family’s trapping cabin in a remote area of the Canoe Valley, about 50 km south of Valemount in September 2014. Local RCMP confirmed in mid-September they were actively looking for Buehler after he didn’t show up in court on Sept. 4, 2014.
Buehler was facing charges stemming from a previous standoff with RCMP on June 19th, 2014, after police received complaints that someone was using six aggressive German Shepherds to block access to recreational trails, while Buehler allegedly threatened to kill a woman and her daughter.
The standoff ended peacefully, and the dogs were temporarily seized, and later released to Buehler. Unlicensed firearms and ammunition were also seized, as well as food and other supplies that had been stored in the local trail association’s equipment shed, according to RCMP.
When Buehler didn’t show up for court on Sept. 4, 2014, Crown prosecutor, Geoff McDonald, told Judge, S. Keys, he was sending RCMP to see if Buehler was stuck down the West Canoe Forest Service Road, as he may have been trapped by a recent washout at the 10 KM bridge.
confirmed to the court that police had been able to reach the spot where Buehler had been camping, and his daughter’s vehicle was there but Buehler was not, so the judge issued a warrant, ultimately leading to Buehler’s demise.
After the shooting, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) came in to investigate the incident.
RCMP has not at any point released a public report regarding the incident, but around the time of the shooting, the Vancouver Sun reported RCMP Insp. Ed Boettcher said police were maintaining a stakeout of a cabin on Kinbasket Reservoir after receiving a complaint two people were living there illegally. He said when other officers came to relieve their colleagues on watch, the man and woman spotted them and the man fired shots.
A report from the RCMP to the Independent Investigations Office (but not the public) stated Emergency Response Team members had been involved in “an exchange of gunfire” between police officers and an adult male.
However, in April 2016, the IIO announced it was referring the case to Crown Counsel, saying their investigation “identified no independent evidence to suggest the exchange of gunfire ever took place.”
In other words, the Buehler’s did not fire shots at RCMP.
On the entirety of the evidence made available to it, CJB said it has “concluded the Branch charge assessment standard for initiating a prosecution against the RCMP officers has not been met.”
As such, no charges have been approved against these individuals, according to the statement.
The IIO is the province’s watchdog for RCMP, and is called whenever police are involved in an incident involving death or serious harm. The IIO either makes a public report, or makes a report to Crown counsel.
The latter — which occurred here — typically occurs when the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO considers an officer may have committed an offence.
The April announcement stressed the IIO does not make a recommendation on whether charges should be approved, or what charges Crown counsel should consider.
In order to approve charges, the Criminal Justice Branch “must be satisfied an offence may have been committed, and that the commission of an offence can be proven in a court beyond a reasonable doubt.”
— with RMG files