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Court orders Saanich to pay $354,000 settlement in Camaso death

The scene after the 2004 shooting death of Majencio Camaso. - File photo
The scene after the 2004 shooting death of Majencio Camaso.
— image credit: File photo

The widow of a man shot dead by a Saanich police constable in July 2004 says she’s “overwhelmed” that a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled her husband’s shooting death was unjustified.

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m filled with emotions at the moment, but, of course, I’m really, really pleased that we have won this long-fought battle,” Teresa Camaso said Wednesday after Justice Grant Burnyeat’s judgment was released. “There’s so much going through my mind at the moment.”

Majencio Camaso, 33, was shot three times by Const. Kristopher Dukeshire on July 11, 2004 after the officer claimed he felt threatened by the man.

The judge wrote in his judgment that “Dukeshire breached the duty of care owed to Mr. Camaso when he did not use the least amount of force necessary to carry out his duties.”

Dukeshire’s actions were found to be “grossly negligent.”

“The shooting of Mr. Camaso amounts to negligence on the part of Const. Dukeshire. I have also come to the conclusion that Const. Dukeshire has not met the onus of showing that the force that he used that day was not excessive,” Burnyeat wrote.

Dukeshire should have considered other use-of-force alternatives, including the baton he kept on his person, states the ruling.

Three Saanich police officers and three B.C. Ambulance Service members attended the Camaso family’s apartment near Richmond Road and Townley Street that morning.

Teresa Camaso called because her husband, who had known mental health issues, had attempted to set their apartment on fire. A foot chase involving Mr. Camaso, the three officers and an ambulance attendant ensued when Camaso evaded police.

The three officers – Dukeshire, Const. Tara McNeil, Const. Kathleen Murphy – became separated, while ambulance attendant Derek Morris stuck close to Dukeshire.

In a field at the former Richmond elementary school, Dukeshire fired three shots at Camaso, who was running at him brandishing one or two metal objects (possibly a pipe and crowbar).

Cameron Ward, the lawyer representing Mrs. Camaso, cited the officers and the ambulance attendant, as well as former Saanich police Chief Derek Egan as negligently contributing to Mr. Camaso’s death.

Burnyeat dismissed the claims against McNeil, Murphy, Morris and Egan. However, he said the Saanich police investigation into the death was negligent for a number of reasons, including the failure “to test the theory of whether Const. Dukeshire had reasonable grounds to believe it was necessary to shoot Mr. Camaso to protect himself.”

Burnyeat awarded $238,912 in losses and damages to Mrs. Camaso, and an additional $115,000 to her daughter Christine, who was three at the time of her father’s death.

Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen said that, as of Wednesday, the department had no comment on the decision. Saanich’s municipal solicitor, Chris Nation, also said the municipality will not comment until it’s had a chance to review the decision.

Jacqueline Horton, a friend of the Camaso family and former legal counsel for Mrs. Camaso, said the judge’s findings are significant.

“I think this will fundamentally change the way municipalities investigate their own police,” Horton said, arguing for an independent body that investigates police misconduct.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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