Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sixth avenue shooting case takes an interesting twist

An incident at a Prince Rupert convenience store two years ago, which saw a woman shot by a Prince Rupert RCMP Corporal, has finally wound its way through the courts, with the woman on trial acquitted of all charges.

Maya Sanford was cleared of her charges, after evidence pointed towards the presence of psychosis due to her apparent drug use, a situation which resulted in her believing her life was in danger when she attacked the RCMP officer in the store on September 29th of 2006.

The details of the trial as relayed in the Daily News provide a picture of a woman whose use of marijuana so clouded her reality, that she put her own life in peril by her actions.

The trial provides an interesting review of how drugs in our community can have an impact on the fabric of the city.
And in this instance, while she is probably quite thankful that the outcome of the trial came out in her favour, it’s clear that those circumstances on September 29th could have ended even more tragically for her.

The trial outline and its outcome, was the front page headline story in Tuesday’s Daily News.

Sanford’s mother thankful her daughter’s name has been cleared
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, September, 8, 2008
Pages one and two

A woman who was shot by a Prince Rupert RCMP officer in 2006 was acquitted of all charges against her after a trial in Prince Rupert Provincial court last month.

Maya Sanford, 23-years-old at the time, was shot by Cpl. Richard Van De Pol on September 29, 2006, after an incident in a convenience store in the 600 block of Sixth Avenue West.

When her trial began August 4, 2008, Sanford plead self-defence, and was represented by Don Martin. The trial’s first witness confirmed that Sanford had smoked marijuana from an “ice bong” with several people at a residence, and said immediately after-ward became antsy and paranoid.

The next witnesses were employees of Raffles Inn, who testified that Sanford entered the lobby and said “they’re after me” and “he’s in the bush trying to kill me,” and was not responsive to questions.

She then got into a taxi, the driver of which was the next witness. He too said Sanford was unresponsive to questions, and did not pay him when she got out of the car at the convenience store.

Sanford’s friend Natalie Mercer was working at the store, and corroborated that her friend was behaving strangely and believed she was in danger.

Cpl. Van De Pol, an officer with 18 years of experience, testified that he believed Sanford saw him as a threat and as she lunged at him he shot her.

An expert witness also gave testimony that the descriptions of Sanford’s behavior are similar to what psychosis from frequent and repeated marijuana use may look like.

During the course of the trial, three of the charges against Sanford were dismissed due to lack of evidence. The charges of mischief, assaulting Natalie Mercer with a weapon and attempting to take Cpl. Van De Pol’s firearm were all dismissed, leaving only the charges of assaulting a police officer with a weapon to be decided.

In Judge Agnes Krantz’s ruling the following week on August 15, she stated that self-defence can occur even if the accused’s perception was wrong, and that what Sanford believed at the time was critical to determining whether her actions were warranted.

He then rule that there were too many witnesses; most of them Crown witnesses, testifying to Sanford’s strange behavior and altered state of mind.

“It would appear that Ms. Sanford believed that not only was there somebody trying to kill her but that other people were in on a conspiracy of some nature to do her harm. She accused the ladies at Raffles Inn of that.

“She accused Ms. Mercer of that, and as she explained to us, she thought the policeman as well was in on the conspiracy to harm her,” said Krantz. “Given the number of people, including the policeman, who though that Ms. Sanford was not behaving normally or as a normal person gives her credibility, but it also adds weight to the evidence of the expert.

“I am prepared to accept the possibility that Ms. Sanford was experiencing psychosis, in all likelihood brought about by her consistent marijuana use, and that in the circumstances on the 29th of September 2006, Ms. Sanford believed that the policeman was part of the plot against her and that her life was in danger, and that her only ability to save herself was basically by attacking him,” said Krantz.

At the time of the incident in 2006, RCMP reported that they were called to a disturbance at the store in which a “distraught” woman was claiming people were trying to kill her, and that upon arrival it was obvious to Cpl. Vad De Pol that Sanford was under the influence of a drug. After unsuccessfully trying to calm her, she grabbed a pair of scissors and attacked Cpl. Van De Pol.

It was also reported that after a physical struggle to disarm Sanford, Cpl. Van De Pol discharged his firearm, shooting her in the abdomen below her left breast.

Sanford was taken to Prince Rupert Regional Hospital and treated for her injury, remaining in stable condition until she was released a week later.

Upon her release from the hospital, Sanford was arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer, assault with a weapon, attempting to disarm a police officer, and mischief.

Sanford then appeared before a Judicial Justice of the Peace that same day, who remanded her to appear in Prince Rupert provincial court on Tues.Oct. 10, at which time she was released on bail.

An independent review of the incident was commenced, which included assistance from the “E” Division Major Crime unit under the direction of an inspector from the Vancouver Police Department.

But as it turns out, Sanford was found not guilty of assaulting Cpl. Van De Pol, as Judge Krantz said in her “paranoid reality” he was part of the plot against her and “not engaged” in his duty as a policeman.”

Krantz closed by commending Cpl. Van De Pol for his straight-forward evidence, noting that he believed him to be a “compassionate police officer” who was “obviously moved and distressed by the events at they unfolded.”

Sanford’s mother Gretta Jones said that she was relieved her daughter’s name would finally be cleared.

“My daughter was only asking for help, and the first thing they should have done was take her to get help knowing she was in a situation like that,” said Jones.

“This was a 23 year old girl that was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and because nobody would help her she could have been killed.”

Nearly two years and multiple surgeries later, the bullet is still lodged inside Sanford. Upon being found not guilty last month, she was finally able to gain employment in Vancouver where she now resides as a dual Canadian./ U. S. citizen.

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