The man killed in a hit and run in downtown Kamloops in the early-morning hours of Oct. 20 had been released from RCMP custody 5.5 hours earlier, a fact that led to his death being investigated by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C.
On Thursday, the IIO issued its report into the death of 48-year-old Frank McDermott, finding no fault with Mounties in connection with McDermott’s death.
(The IIO does not mention McDermott by name. KTW has confirmed his identify with multiple sources.)
McDermott was arrested in Kamloops on Oct. 19 at 11:24 a.m. on an alcohol-related offence. McDermott was held in the Battle Street detachment’s cells until 8:08 p.m., when officers determined he was fit for release.
Five-and-a-half hours later, at 1:37 a.m., police were called to Seymour Street near First Avenue, where it appeared McDermott had been hit by a vehicle. He was taken to Royal Inland Hospital, where he died from his injuries.
Due to McDermott’s interaction with police shortly before his death, the Kamloops RCMP notified the IIO at 2:20 a.m. and an investigation was launched.
“The objective of the IIO investigation is to determine if an officer, through an action or inaction, may have committed any offence in relation to the incident that led to [McDermott’s] death,” IIO chief civilian director Ronald J. MacDonald wrote in his report.
“The information from police indicated that [McDermott] was fit when he was released. A review of the CCTV (custody closed-circuit television) showed [McDermott] as he was released from cells. his behaviour and actions captured by the CCTV show a person who appears co-ordinated and sober,” MacDonald wrote.
“The recording also shows [McDermott] talking to officers and walking away from the detachment in a co-ordinated manner. In addition, [McDermott] was dressed appropriately for weather conditions.”
MacDonald noted McDermott was released nine hours after his arrest, which he said was ample time for McDermott to sober up. He also noted the collision that took McDermott’s life occurred more than five hours after he was released from custody.
“As a result, it is clear there is no causal link between the actions of the officers and the death of [McDermott],” MacDonald wrote. “Indeed, once [McDermott] was sober, it was their duty to release him from custody.”
In the days following McDermott’s death, an RCMP press release identified a silver-coloured Dodge Neon as the vehicle involved in the incident. On Oct. 25, police said the suspect vehicle was actually a blue sedan. This past Tuesday, a third press release said the blue sedan was no longer a suspect vehicle, but that its occupants may be witnesses to the collision.
Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie said investigators are not pleased with the way the story of the identification errors is unfolding in local media.
“I think it’s losing oomph because, perhaps, the media is portraying that — putting a slant on it that police have changed their story again,” she said. “The important thing to remember is that a man died. We’re trying to solve this.”
On Oct. 24, police seized a silver Neon that had been parked outside a house on Columbia Street. After the car was towed, its owner told KTW the vehicle had been parked on the street since the previous week and was not involved in the collision.
Though the blue sedan is no longer a suspect vehicle, Shelkie said investigators are still hoping to speak to its driver and occupants about what they might have seen.
“We’re looking at some video surveillance from different locations downtown,” she said. “From some locations, it doesn’t show a clear image of the suspect vehicle. We have the time that it happened.”
Investigators believe the collision took place at about 1:30 a.m. and Shelkie said they are hoping to speak with anyone who was in the area at the time.
“When investigating a crime, it isn’t always point A to point B,” she said. “New evidence leads us in new directions. The important thing to remember is we’re working to solve a hit-and-run fatality and we need the public’s help to do so.”