Warning: This story contains graphic content and details of violence that some readers may find disturbing.
A video has surfaced on social media showing a Vancouver police officer fatally shooting a local man with a bean bag gun — an incident in August that is the subject of a police use-of-force investigation.
Chris Amiott, a 42-year-old father of eight from Winnipeg who was visiting family in Vancouver, was shot to death with a bean bag gun on Aug. 22 after an interaction with Vancouver police officers in the Downtown Eastside.
The Ojibway man’s death is prompting police to demand accountability from his family, who say Amyot was shot while unarmed and called for help. Witnesses and the Vancouver Police Department confirmed that he called for help.
The incident is the subject of an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), B.C.’s civilian-led police oversight agency, into whether police use of force was appropriate.
The video shows the lead up to the shooting
The first visible video of the incident was first posted on TikTok on August 26, days after the shooting.
The three-and-a-half-minute clip, which appears to have been shot from an apartment several stories across the street, shows Amiott leaving the Lakshmi Convenience on East Hastings Street on the morning of August 22.
In the video, Amyot is naked and holding a white jug, which he repeatedly pours over his head, emptying what appears to be milk over himself.
The events in the video are consistent with witnesses’ accounts of Amiot distressed by the bear attack and trying to soothe the burns by taking off his clothes and dousing him in milk.
Warning: This video depicts graphic content and violence. CBC News has edited it to be longer.
Amiotte strolled down the sidewalk in the 300-block of Hastings Street, pouring milk as half a dozen people looked on.
About 90 seconds into the video, a police vehicle pulls up and two officers get out and approach Amyot.
The native quickly walks away from the officers and is joined by more officers, one of whom points a long gun at Amyot, who quickly collapses to the pavement and is surrounded by police.
The person who posted the video, a TikTok user identified as Tara Jones, noted that she performed CPR on Amyot, who had been lying on the sidewalk for more than an hour.
Amiot’s cousin Samantha Wilson told CBC that because the video exists it answers many questions about his final moments.
“When I saw it, it was very embarrassing,” she said. “He had no dignity in it. You could see the panic, you could see the panic in his actions, he was scared … he was alone.”
Wilson knew the video existed for months and posted it on his own Twitter account on Tuesday. Although she was initially embarrassed to see it, she now feels the need to share it and see it widely.
She says the video only reinforced her family’s belief that police use of force was unjustified.
“I have a lot of questions about their de-escalation strategies because they follow him so closely in the video,” she said.
“They knew very well that he was unarmed and that he was not a threat to anybody based on all the bystanders that were there.”
Director of IIO said the video was helpful
The IIO says they were not aware of its existence until CBC News shared the video with them Thursday morning.
“We have video of that incident that is different from this one,” Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald told CBC. “It offers a different perspective, which is very helpful.”
MacDonald says IIO investigators previously canvassed the neighborhood and spoke to several witnesses. He says this latest video shows more of what happened before the police arrived.
“That kind of video helps us corroborate or disconfirm some of the other statements we got about how the person was acting and what he was doing before the police arrived,” he said.
McDonald says those facts are relevant to determining whether the use of force by police in this case was appropriate.
CBC News reached out to the VPD for comment but was told to contact the IIO.
In the weeks after Amyot’s death, the VPD acknowledged in a statement that Amyot “asked for help from several people who did not offer help.”
Officers attempted to verbally communicate with the man when they arrived, and witnesses reported the confrontation, the statement said.
VPD Sgt. Steve Addison said the bean bag shotgun is a “safe, effective, non-lethal device” and “can be used as an alternative to deadly force and deployed against a person who is acting violently or exhibiting aggressive behavior.”