Homeless Man Shot by Police Not 'Suspect'

Man shot and killed by Vancouver police was not ‘suspect’

By Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun, March 24, 2009

VANCOUVER — A homeless man armed with an X-Acto knife who was shot and killed by Vancouver police last week was not the break-in suspect police were pursuing, a senior officer said Tuesday.

Police stopped Michael Vann Hubbard, 58, last Friday because he resembled a suspected wanted for theft from a car.

He was fatally shot after pulling an X-Acto knife from his backpack.

“We never said that he was the individual who broke into the car,” police Supt. Rob Rothwell said in an interview.

“We said he was being checked because he matched the [suspect’s] description, and the bag appeared the same.

“I think people jumped to the conclusion, perhaps, that he was one and the same.

“We never said that he was responsible for that car break-in. That’s simply what initiated the check of Mr. Hubbard.”

Rothwell, who is in charge of the VPD’s investigation division, said he could not comment further because the police-involved shooting is being investigated by an outside police agency, the Abbotsford police.

In a news release late Tuesday, Abbotsford police Const. Casey Vinet also confirmed Vann Hubbard was not the break-in suspect.

“Police have determined the bag in possession of Mr. Vann Hubbard, although similar, was not the bag stolen from the vehicle in the reported theft,” the statement said.

“At this point in the investigation there is no evidence linking Mr. Vann Hubbard to the original theft from vehicle investigation.”

Last Friday, Vancouver police spokeswoman Const. Jana McGuiness said two female officers responded to a 911 call about a theft from a vehicle on Granville Street. They stopped a possible suspect on Homer Street, who pulled out the knife, refused commands to drop it and was shot when he approached the officers.

At least one witness challenged the police version of events. Adam Smolcic claims Vann Hubbard was shaking as he slowly pulled out the small knife and never approached the officers before he was shot.

Vann Hubbard’s sister, who lives in Illinois, received a phone call Monday from a Vancouver police officer, who explained her brother was not the break-in suspect, said David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

The sister, who did not want to speak publicly, called Eby after he spoke out about the shooting.

“She didn’t believe for a second that [Vann Hubbard] was threatening the life of these police officers, that that wasn’t the type of person he was,” Eby said.
“He didn’t have any substance abuse issues other than alcohol, and breaking into cars ... wasn’t like him.”

Vann Hubbard lived in the Salvation Army’s Belkin House for 30 days last year, and then joined a program run by the shelter, but was last in contact with it in August, said Major Brian Venables.

He caused no problems at the shelter, Venables added.

He has no criminal convictions in B.C., court records show.

Smolcic, the witness, alleges he taped the shooting on his cell phone, but an officer at the scene erased the video. One data recovery expert could not find any evidence of the video and the phone is now being examined by a second expert, Eby said.

Abbotsford police have recovered surveillance video of the shooting from two separate independent sources, and are asking Smolcic to contact them.
The Abbotsford police investigation will determine whether the officers involved in Vann Hubbard’s shooting violated the Police Act or the Criminal Code.