A British Columbia Supreme Court justice has declared a mistrial in the case of a man killed by Vancouver police.

The family of Thomas Evon Stevenson had sued the City of Vancouver and two of its police officers for damages for wrongful death. The trial by judge and jury was in progress when the family’s lawyer, Cameron Ward, applied for an appropriate remedy to deal with alleged defence misconduct. On October 11, 2005, Madam Justice Boyd delivered oral reasons granting a mistrial, stating that “there is no acceptable excuse for defence counsel’s delay in producing…documents”. A new trial date has not yet been set.


A coroner’s jury heard evidence about the fatal incident at the coroner’s inquest during the week of January 12-15, 2004.

On December 7, 2002, a Vancouver police officer came upon a car parked in the 400 block of East Pender Street that had been reported stolen. He disabled it, staked it out and called for assistance. When a man opened the unlocked door and got in, two police officers approached. The man ignored police commands to get out, locked the door and attempted to light a pipe with his bare hands. Moments later both officers fired a total of six bullets into the car, killing Stevenson instantly.

Some 60 Vancouver Police Department members converged on the scene and ambulances were called. The police did not tell the ambulance attendants how Stevenson had sustained his injuries.

VPD Identification Unit photographs of the scene depicted a children’s toy plastic pistol lying behind the left rear wheel of the car, metres from Stevenson’s dead body. At a VPD media briefing two days later, VPD Inspector Chris Beach stated that the replice handgun was in Stevenson’s lap or waist area before the shooting and that he had made a threatening gesture, as if to reach for it.

The VPD investigated the homicide, even though two of its members were involved. VPD Investigators did not interview any police officers, including the two who fired the shots. Those two members were not separated or taken into custody. They left work and consulted the same lawyer, who delivered prepared statements to the investigators some fifteen days later. VPD investigators did not attempt to reconstruct the incident to determine whether the explanation for the shooting was plausible. The autopsy report revealed that two bullets went through both Stevenson’s bare hands before entering his chest. The plastic gun was undamaged and did not have Stevenson’s fingerprints on it.

The coroner’s jury made the following recommendations to then Solicitor General Rich Coleman:

“1. Implement a special investigations unit similar to the SIU in Ontario, independent of the police, to investigate circumstances involving the police which result in serious injury, assault or death.

2. Circumstances involving the police which result in serious injury, assault or death be investigated by members of police investigation team independent of police force under investigation.

3. Specific protocol be developed related to the investigation of police shooting.”

None of these recommendations have been adopted.