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Police complaint commissioner to investigate 2022 crash that killed B.C. teens

The officer was going 124 km/h in the minutes before the suspect vehicle hit the teens' car
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18-year-old Samir Olyad Suleiman Ali (left) and 17-year-old Yasbirat Ytatek were killed by a driver fleeing a traffic stop in New Westminster on July 26. (Oliyad Ali/Youtube & GoFundMe photos)

B.C.'s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has launched an investigation into a 2022 police chase that led to the crash that killed two teens. 

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner will be investigating the crash that killed Yasbirat Ytatek, 17, and Samir Olyad Suleiman Ali, 18, near the Burnaby-New Westminster border on July 26, 2022. The crash happened after two Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers chased after a suspect vehicle at a high rate of speed, and the suspect vehicle hit the teens' vehicle. 

Deputy police complaint commissioner Andrea Spindler told Black Press Media Tuesday (July 9) that since the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has concluded its investigation, the OPCC is required under the Police Act to investigate.

Spindler said the office will be assigning an external police agency to conduct the investigation. Investigations have a six-month timeline, but it could be extended "to ensure a complete and thorough" investigation.

The investigation is "separate and distinct" from the IIO's investigation and will assess all circumstances, including but not limited to, any training, policy, or misconduct allegations."

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. concluded its investigation in February, stating there were no reasonable grounds to be any officer may have committed an offence, but did not release its report into the fatal crash until June 28 after the man driving the suspect vehicle was sentenced. 

Cory Robert Ulmer Brown was charged in July 2023 with two counts of criminal negligence causing death, one count of driving while disqualified and one count of flight from police. He was recently sentenced, allowing for the IIO to release its report. 

The report notes that the police vehicle was found to be chasing after the suspect vehicle at speeds of up to 124 km/h in the minutes leading up to the fatal crash.

The subject officer that was cleared in the investigation didn't provide an account to the IIO, but the officer in the passenger seat did provide a statement. 

IIO's interim chief civilian director Sandra J. Hentzen said emergency vehicle drivers are permitted to exceed speed limited where there is a reasonable justification and risk to the public is minimal. 

"In this case, there were valid concerns about the suspect vehicle, and traffic was fairly light, so [the officer's] attempts to 'close the distance' and then attempt a traffic stop did not create appreciable risks at that point. They were reasonable and lawful," Hentzen said. 

She added the "tragic accident" was "caused by a combination of the driver of the suspect vehicle's reckless flight from a legitimate traffic stop, and the left turn against signage by the driver of the second civilian vehicle."

It was on July 26, 2022 that two Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers were driving northbound over the Pattullo Bridge in an unmarked black Toyota Highlander around 11 p.m. The officer driving the Toyota, who was the subject of the investigation, asked the other officer in the passenger seat to check their system about the licence plate of a vehicle that had just passed them.

According to the report, the plate belonged to a vehicle that had previously fled from police. The vehicle continued north on McBride Boulevard and the officers followed close behind.

The officer told the IIO that both vehicles sped up at this point, and GPS data from the police vehicle shows it was going 98.5 km/h along McBride Avenue which is a 50 km/h zone.

The police vehicle stopped behind the suspect vehicle at a traffic light at 8th Avenue, and when the light turned green the officer activated the vehicle's emergency lights, which the IIO notes are "not as noticeable" in an unmarked police vehicle. The other officer said there was no immediate sign that the suspect vehicle noticed police following. At that point, the police vehicle was travelling at a maximum speed of 81.3 km/h.

The vehicles turned westbound onto 10th Avenue and the suspect vehicle started to pick up speed. Police "blipped" the siren a few times for five to 10 seconds but there was no response. 

The suspect vehicle sped up and police fully turned on the siren. The police vehicle slowed to a stop around 4th Street and then turned onto 10th Avenue and sped up to a maximum speed of 124.3 km/h.

The report says the police vehicle "is then seen to slow fairly abruptly," stopping about 155 metres from the intersection of 10th Avenue and 6th Street.

It was at that intersection, when the traffic light was green for 10th Avenue, that the suspect vehicle hit the vehicle with the teens, who were turning left onto 6th Street. Collision reconstruction noted the suspect vehicle was travelling at least twice the speed limit at the time of the crash. The report adds that based on signage at the intersection, the teens' vehicle was making an illegal left turn. 

The officers witnessed the crash and drove to the scene "approximately 43 seconds later." The occupants in the suspect vehicle were found injured, while the teens were found dead.