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MERRITT, B.C. — An investigation into the Merritt shootout between a Fort St. John man and the RCMP concluded the officers involved did not commit any offences.
To come to this conclusion, The Independent Investigations Office of BC collected evidence, including statements from all involved, statements from witnesses, RCMP records, audio recordings, video recordings, scene examinations, firearm examinations and more.
Gerald Cooper, with his 11-year-old son in the passenger seat, was involved in a police pursuit extending over thirty kilometres on highways between Quilchena and Merritt.
The pursuit ended with a shootout between Cooper and four RCMP officers.
When civilian vehicles approached the scene, officers ceased fire, and Cooper’s son appeared around the front of his father’s vehicle and ‘surrendered’ to police.
An officer drove the 11-year-old away from the scene and to a hospital, where he was treated for a chest injury that was later confirmed not to be a bullet wound.
During the final shootout, civilians reported officers telling Cooper to “give up, get down, throw your guns out.” Cooper replied with expletives and more gunfire.
The shootout ended when an officer struck Cooper with a non-life-threatening bullet.
Once Cooper and his son were treated in the hospital, it was found that bullet fragments injured his son. Cooper’s gunshot wound was to his right flank, between his lower ribs and his hips.
Scene examination found non-RCMP-issue .223-calibre cartridge cases between Cooper’s truck and the highway, which reportedly indicated they were fired in the general direction of the police.
Investigators also located seven non-RCMP-issue .223-calibre live cartridges and four carbine magazines containing 70 live cartridges. Cooper’s rifle had 22 live cartridges, with one in the chamber.
In Cooper’s vehicle, ten non-RCMP-issue expended .222-caliber cartridge cases, one live .223 cartridge and another magazine containing 17 live .223 rounds.
There was also an “assortment” of other weapons, including a collapsible baton, brass knuckles and a knife, as well as unspecified drug paraphernalia.
The rifle used by Cooper was found to be modified to be capable of firing in full-automatic mode, which makes it a prohibited firearm. The magazines Cooper possessed were high-capacity types that are also prohibited.
In the location where officers were firing, 95 expended RCMP-issue 5.56 mm cartridge cases and one RCMP-issue carbine magazine were located.
Earlier this year, attempted murder charges were dropped against Cooper, who still faced charges of possession of stolen property, using a restricted or prohibited firearm, and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
The full report from IIOBC can be viewed below:
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