Young man shot in the back of the head by Houston police
Compiled from various sources
published 21st November 2007
Updates on this case listed at the foot of this item
Ian Bush, a 22-year-old sawmill worker, was shot in the back of the head 20 minutes after his arrest on 29th October 2005, for holding an open beer can in the parking lot of a hockey arena in Houston, British Columbia. At the time of his death, he was in the process of being released by the police agency. Ian was arrested outside the local arena for giving a false name when questioned by officers attending the scene, less than half an hour later he was dead. Angry residents held monthly vigils until they were disbanded by the Mounties.
In its first press release after the killing, the RCMP claimed that Ian had become “very violent and attacked the officer.” It also read; “a violent struggle ensued and the 22-year-old male died at the scene.”
On 5th September 2006, Crown prosecutors exonerated a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) constable Paul Koester for shooting. Ian’s father, Dawson Bush, said, “We expected to hear that the police officer who shot my son would be set free, “There is no possible way this man should walk away with a smile on his face after he shot my son to death without one single thing happening. “When have you ever heard that a person was shot in the back of the head for resisting release from custody?”
Ian’s mother launched a lawsuit against Koester, Attorney-General Oppal and Solicitor-General John Les, alleging that Ian died from “the unlawful assault and negligence”.
It is reported that she also echoed the comments of Ian’s father by stating; “Right from the first, the tone by the police was that it was self-defence. I never believed he [Koester] would be charged.” It took almost a year after the incident for British Columbia’s Criminal Justice Branch to reach their finding that the Constable had acted in self-defence.
When British Columbia Attorney-General Wally Oppal was challenged about the self-defence claim as Ian had been shot in the back of the head, his response was, “It’s a struggle, and if you figure out the logistics of what happened, the officer’s evidence makes sense.” This explanation has always remained suspect given that the young man was shot in the RCMP interview room, the accused constable was the only officer present and the video and audio equipment had been turned off.
Jason Gratl, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association president, said, “This case is receiving an extraordinary high level of secrecy because we don’t know all the information, are at a loss to explain why. But what we can say is the underlying fact pattern – the bullet in the back of the head – reeks to high heaven.”
Former commission chairwoman, Shirley Heafey, said the RCMP routinely tries to sideline complaint investigations. “They say look, it’s been through the courts. That’s it. You don’t need to know anything more. Or they will say the coroner looked at it and that’s enough.” Apparently the RCMP is legally entitled to investigate itself in shooting deaths.
Ian’s father commented “I do hope that the Coroner’s inquest will open more doors for us. We also have a civil lawsuit taking place because we want to get to the bottom of this. Just what happened? That’s what we need to know.”
At the time of writing a family member confirmed that the coroners’ inquest had taken place, and all it did was raise more questions.
His sister said, “I’m frustrated and angry and sad, our whole family is, “It’s unfathomable, for god’s sake. I can’t even think about how it could have gone from that small tiny thing of the beer to what happened. Ian was just not the sort of person who would have turned on that cop for no reason,”
See video report relating to Ian’s inquest:
RCMP releases report on Ian Bush shooting