Mounties are not liable for the injuries of a repeat-offender accused of leading Kelowna RCMP on a short pursuit prior to a dramatic collision, B.C.’s police watchdog agency has decided.
John Michael Aronson allegedly crashed his car shortly after an interaction with police on Sept. 23, 2019, prompting the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) to look into the incident.
While Aronson has been charged with driving while prohibited, flight from police, dangerous driving and breach of probation in relation to the incident, he has not yet faced a judge on those counts.
It’s alleged Aronson was spotted by a Mountie, driving while prohibited. The officer was told Aronson might “take off” and was instructed not to pursue him.
According to the IIO report, the man, believed to be Aronson, drove across the William R. Bennett Bridge into West Kelowna, and that same officer followed him.
Just before the exit to Westside Road, the officer attempted to pull Aronson over. As soon as the police cruiser’s lights turned on, a civilian witness said the vehicle quickly cut across traffic lanes and took the exit at a high speed. At that point, the officer stopped the pursuit and turned his lights off while Aronson sped down the on-ramp back onto the highway, according to the witness.
Dash camera footage caught the fleeing vehicle speeding down the shoulder of Highway 97. The footage shows it appearing to clip another southbound vehicle and then immediately swerve left across the southbound lanes and median, colliding with an oncoming northbound vehicle.
Aronson told IIO investigators he was not aware he was being followed by police and denied being in a chase. He told them he believed his vehicle had been ‘tapped’ by a flat-bed truck that had come racing up behind him. He believed he lost control of his vehicle and after that, only remembered waking up in the hospital.
Aronson suffered a fractured skull, broken arm, shoulder, femur, pelvis, knee and ankle.
The IIO launched its investigation to determine whether there were reasonable grounds to believe the officer, through action or inaction, may have committed any offence resulting in Aronson’s injuries.
“More specifically, the issue to be considered in this case is whether an officer may have engaged in an unjustified chase and caused the traffic accident,” read the decision from IIO chief civilian director Ronald McDonald.
McDonald ruled the evidence does not support that conclusion, adding the officer let the vehicle go when it fled, as instructed.
“The accident was caused by … behaviour in speeding and losing control of [the] vehicle, not by any inappropriate act of a police officer,” he wrote.
John Michael Aronson has faced several driving-related charges in the past, the most recent of which came from the September 2019 incident— the same day he pleaded guilty to several charges surrounding a separate police chase in January 2019.
Aronson is currently in custody.
He is scheduled to stand trial in October 2020.
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