by Laura Keil
The BC Prosecution Service released a statement last week clarifying why no charges were laid against police in the fatal shooting south of Valemount in 2014, which left John Buehler dead and his daughter Shanna Buehler clinging to life after being shot three times.
The question of charges comes from whether or not police used excessive force in their attempt to arrest the Buehlers.
Section 26 of the Criminal Code outlines that an officer is criminally responsible where the force used is excessive. The Service considered charges including assault and murder.
The Buehlers did not fire on police, but lifted their rifles and pointed them or started to point them in the direction of Emergency Response Team (ERT) members who were staked out in the woods, the Prosecution Service says.
The shooting occurred during an ambush of a trapper’s cabin where John and Shanna were squatting with survival supplies and their six German Shepherds. Police had a warrant for John’s arrest for breaching conditions from charges related to a previous stand-off with RCMP, and police acquired more warrants both for he and Shanna when they learned they were squatting in a trapper’s cabin.
The Prosecution Service said conditions for charges against ERT members had not been met in this case.
“It is clear on the evidence that the officers were engaged in the lawful execution of their duties when they attended at the property to arrest the male suspect. It is also clear on the evidence that they subjectively believed that lethal force was necessary to protect the officers from death or grievous bodily harm.”
The Service says police considered background information for the Buehlers before going in and that information supported the the police’s cautionary stance.
Both Buehlers were seen armed with rifles during police surveillance prior to the ambush and had the dogs with them at all times. John had also sabotaged the only access bridge to the cabin, increasing police’s risk assessment of the situation. Police also took into account John Buehler’s violent past and Shanna’s sympathy for his radical views, which included believing the end of the world was imminent.
Both Buehlers were shot in separate locations as they lifted rifles towards ERT members who had announced their presence as police.
Under section 25(1) of the Criminal Code a police officer is justified in using force to effect a lawful arrest. Section 25(3) provides that a peace officer is not justified in using force that is intended or is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm unless the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that it is necessary for the self-preservation of the peace officer or the preservation of any one under that peace officer’s protection from death or grievous bodily harm.
Watch for the Goat’s feature story detailing the ERT response in January 2018.