Blue Line

B.C. inquest hears initial 911 calls related to man who died after police beating

April 18, 2023  By The Canadian Press

Apr. 18, 2023, Burnaby, B.C. – A coroner’s inquest has heard from two people whose 911 calls set off the Vancouver police response that led to the beating death of another man by several officers.

Myles Gray, who was 33, died in Burnaby, B.C., in August 2015 within an hour of the beating by officers that left him with injuries including a fractured eye socket, nose and rib, a crushed voice box and a ruptured testicle.

Muhammed Reza said he called police because he was scared for his safety and that of the people in his neighbourhood after Gray wandered into the area in south Vancouver, swore at his mother and sprayed her with a nearby garden hose.

Reza told the inquest he ran outside after hearing his mother’s screams and saw Gray, who was shirtless and appeared to be intoxicated or having a “breakdown.”

He said he called police and kept an eye on Gray, who was walking in circles, yelling and at one point ran onto the street and was almost hit by several cars.

“I felt like he needed to get help,” Reza testified.

The inquest began Monday, more than seven years after Gray’s death. About 40 witnesses are expected to testify over 10 days.

Reza’s mother, Songul Reza, told the inquest she was watering her garden when she felt someone tugging the hose away from her and turned to see a muscular man.

He sprayed her with the hose and made sexual remarks, telling her you’re “beautiful” and “you’re so hot,” she told the inquest through a Turkish-speaking interpreter.

A neighbour, Nazima Majidigoruh, also testified, saying she called 911 after hearing voices and went outside to find a young man had been bothering her friend.

That call was played for the jury, and at one point the dispatcher tells her to ensure Muhammed Reza went inside, because “(police) don’t want to confuse him with the bad guy.”

Majidigoruh became emotional as she answered questions from Ian Donaldson, a lawyer for Gray’s family. She said she had also been concerned for Gray, agreeing through a Farsi language interpreter that he did not appear to be “himself.”

An officer directly involved in the response is scheduled to testify later Tuesday.

The rest are expected to testify over the coming days.

In the first 911 call played for the jury, the dispatcher is heard confirming there had been “no physical violence” at that point, and later asking Muhammed Reza whether he thought Gray needed an ambulance, to which he replied he wasn’t sure.

He testified that a female officer arrived about half an hour after he first called 911, and he followed at a distance as she approached Gray with a van.

He recalled Gray being “a little bit aggressive” toward the officer, who then returned to her vehicle.

Gray’s sister, Melissa, told media ahead of the start of the inquest that the officers involved in the beating stole her brother’s life and they don’t deserve to keep their jobs in policing.

She testified that her brother was goofy and kind, and while the years since his death have been a nightmare, her family takes comfort knowing he was innocent.

Gray was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after an episode in high school, around 1999, but to her knowledge, he was stable after that, she told the jury.

The inquest has also heard from Gray’s family doctor, who testified that he met Gray in 2011 and determined his bipolar disorder was “well controlled.”

British Columbia’s Prosecution Service declined to approve criminal charges against the officers in 2020, saying they were the only witnesses to the incident.

The Crown could not prove any offence had been committed, the service said, noting the officers had provided incomplete and sometimes inconsistent accounts.

A coroner’s jury can’t make findings of legal responsibility but can make recommendations to prevent future deaths under similar circumstances.

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