On August 13, 2004, Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham spoke to the media about Jeff Berg, the Vancouver man whose death at the hands of Vancouver police was ruled a homicide. Although the three people Jeff Berg was with when he was accosted and killed were not found guilty of participating in a “home invasion”, Chief Graham suggested they were in fact guilty of that when they were found outside a home in the 4800 block Slocan St. on October 22, 2000. Among other things, Graham said that “Jeff Berg had been repeatedly involved in home invasions”, that “there is no doubt that he planned to tie [the occupants of 4870 Slocan St.] up with the cord” later found in his pocket and “the family fled Vancouver in terror and were not available to testify” a trial of the three people who were with Berg when he died. Graham concluded by saying “had he lived, Jeff Berg would likely be in jail today”.

Aside from the insensitivity he has shown to the family of a victim of a police homicide by blaming the deceased victim, Graham’s remarks are erroneous, disturbing, inappropriate and just plain nonsense.

Jeff Berg, 37, had no criminal record and there is no proof that he had ever committed a prior criminal act or that he had committed a criminal act on the night in question. One of his friends testified at the inquest that they were in the alley because they had stopped so Jeff could get some marijuana. The house at 4870 Slocan Street had been the site of an alleged marijuana trafficking operation and one of its occupants, Mo Thi Le, was facing criminal charges for allegedly growing and possessing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking at that location. This person was one of the “terrified” family members who “fled” Vancouver and supposedly couldn’t testify later.

Jeff Berg was unarmed and had no alcohol or drugs in his system when he was killed. According to police, a scissors and a piece of cord were retrieved from his pockets while he was on life support in hospital. So what? The officer who killed him saw no weapons of any kind and scissors and cord have a variety of innocent uses.

The officer who killed Jeff Berg was unharmed: not a scratch, not a bruise, not a hair out of place. On the other hand, Berg sustained a series of deep bruises and abrasions to his head, face and genitals, all as detailed in the autopsy report. If there was a fight between these two, as Graham suggests, it was completely one-sided. Berg’s injuries were consistent with the reports of civilian eyewitnesses who saw a police officer pistol-whip Berg after he had surrendered, then kick him repeatedly when he was lying motionless on the ground.

Cases should be tried in court. If Jeff Berg’s assailant had not been a police officer, he would have been tried and a court would have decided his guilt or innocence. It is not for Chief Graham or the police to play judge, jury and executioner.