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Police watchdog finds Shuswap Mounties did not commit offence in deadly crash

RCMP not at fault in May 2021 speeding incident along Highway 1 in Sicamous
RCMP in Shuswap use spike belt to stop speeding vehicle in Sicamous on May 20, 2021. (RCMP image)

The police watchdog has completed its review of a May 2021 speeding and reckless driving incident in Sicamous that resulted in the death of a Malakwa woman.

The investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) found police officers involved were not at fault in the injury or death that resulted from their interventions.

Following the incident, Dorian Bell, 34, of Malakwa was sentenced in October 2022 to 4.5 years in jail after pleading guilty to dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death, failing to stop when driving a vehicle being pursued by police, and driving a vehicle while prohibited.

READ MORE: Man responsible for vehicle death of Shuswap woman sentenced to 4.5 years in jail

The IIO report laid out the details of the incident.

Police set up a roadblock and laid a spike belt east of Salmon Arm in an attempt to stop Bell’s dangerous driving on May 20, 2021. Bell’s vehicle contained one passenger, Brittany Thompson, 28, and as Bell approached the roadblock he swerved around the spike belt, the vehicle sliding into the sandy highway shoulder, slipping out of control and down an embankment. Bell was seriously injured and Thompson was killed.

The report took into account four civilian and three police officer witness accounts, official police records, dash camera video footage and the inspection report, as well as intended policies, the B.C. Health and pathologist’s reports and medical evidence.

Officer testimony revealed there was concern for public safety due to Bell’s erratic driving and excessive speed approaching Sicamous. The investigation found the concern to be warranted and the roadblock setup advisable.

The placement of the spike belt was found to be consistent with Sicamous RCMP’s supplementary policies. It was placed on a ridge with only two lanes of vehicle traffic and railings and concrete barriers to provide officers protection. The placement also allowed the driver a clear view of the roadblock as he was approaching from the west with plenty of time to stop.

The policy also recommends particular placement of police vehicles, which was not strictly followed in this instance. The policy recommends a police vehicle be in the same lane facing the same direction as the oncoming suspect, pointing 45 degrees towards the centre line. In this case, officers parked facing west, pointing in the direction of the oncoming suspect, on the opposite side of the road.

This was not found to be a determining factor in the injuries or death, however.

After being transported to hospital following the crash, Bell’s toxicology screening was positive for amphetamines/methamphetamine and marijuana. 

The vehicle had been stolen and fitted with an improvised repair to the brakes which would negatively impact brake performance.

The tires had spikes in them upon inspection, but were not in long enough to have been the cause of the crash.

Overall, the report found that although deploying a spike belt in front of a speeding vehicle can be risky, the driver’s extremely dangerous behaviour and threat to the public outweighed the risk to the driver and passenger.

Although the roadblock setup wasn’t exactly to policy standards, the IIO found no fault in the behaviour of the officers involved.

The crash, Bell’s injuries, and Thompson’s death were determined to be Bell’s fault, and the IIO found no reasonable grounds to believe that any officer committed an offence in the incident.

The matter will not be transferred to Crown counsel for any further consideration.

READ MORE: Four people ejected in Highway 3 crash near Princeton and dog killed


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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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