Vancouver police officer stabbed by robbery suspect gives emotional testimony at inquest

In this image taken from surveillance footage, four Vancouver police officers can be seen aiming their firearms at Daniel Peter Rintoul outside a Canadian Tire on Nov. 10, 2016. A police service rifle lies between the officers and an injured Rintoul, who is out of frame on the bottom right. To the right, two officers attend to Const. Justin Fraser's stab wounds. (B.C. Coroners Service - image credit)
In this image taken from surveillance footage, four Vancouver police officers can be seen aiming their firearms at Daniel Peter Rintoul outside a Canadian Tire on Nov. 10, 2016. A police service rifle lies between the officers and an injured Rintoul, who is out of frame on the bottom right. To the right, two officers attend to Const. Justin Fraser's stab wounds. (B.C. Coroners Service - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains graphic details.

A police officer who was repeatedly stabbed by robbery suspect Daniel Peter Rintoul before he was able to pull his gun says he's still "haunted" by the choices he made that day, six years ago.

Const. Justin Fraser testified Monday at the coroners' inquest into the police shooting death of 38-year-old Rintoul outside an East Vancouver Canadian Tire on Nov. 10, 2016.

Fraser and his partner, Const. Gary Li, were the first Vancouver police officers on the scene that day after Rintoul had attempted to rob the store's gun section, slashed a store employee with a knife and taken an elderly customer hostage.

During an emotional morning session at the inquest, Fraser described how Rintoul stabbed him in the back, shoulders, face, thigh and abdomen.

Fraser said he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a sleep disorder and has not been able to return to patrol duty since the stabbing.

"My confidence has been shot. If I was out on patrol, I do believe I would respond appropriately, but I don't want to go through that stress for A) myself and B) my family. My family has paid a huge price for this," Fraser told the coroners' jury before turning away in tears.

He was one of three officers who fired live rounds at Rintoul, ultimately killing him.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. investigated the shooting and cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing, agreeing that Rintoul "posed a threat of deadly force" to police and members of the public.

During the coroner's inquest, which concluded Monday afternoon, the jury heard from witnesses to determine the facts of the case. The jury can make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths.

'Things were just not making sense'

Speaking slowly and pausing frequently to take deep breaths, Fraser ran through the events that led to him firing on Rintoul.

Fraser recalled arriving at the store's parking lot and taking out his C8 rifle, in addition to the pistol in his holster.

The seriousness of the situation was so apparent that Fraser didn't take the time to load the empty rifle or strap it to his back. He said those are decisions that have "haunted me to this day."

The jury heard that as Fraser and Li approached the store, they saw Rintoul coming out, holding a customer hostage. Rintoul then turned toward Fraser and sprayed him with bear spray.

Fraser testified that he ducked and turned to try to escape the spray as he heard Li discharge his Taser.

Fraser said he ran in and tried to arrest Rintoul as he lay on the ground, grabbing his left arm as Li held onto the right. Fraser still held his unloaded rifle in one hand, but he testified he realized he had no choice but to lay the weapon on the ground near Rintoul's feet.

Maryse Zeidler/CBC
Maryse Zeidler/CBC

Even though they outnumbered Rintoul, Fraser said he and Li were struggling to bring the very large suspect under control.

"I felt some blows to my back, upper left shoulder area, close to the side of my vest. I felt confused briefly why these blows were not very strong because I knew — I believed — the person on the ground was quite strong, and things were just not making sense. The blows were strange," Fraser testified.

"The training I've had in the past has enabled me to realize that I was being stabbed."

He said he rolled away from Rintoul and yelled "knife, knife, knife" to warn his partner.

"I felt the suspect move with me, and that's when I felt the knife go into my abdomen," Fraser said. "I had my hands on his hand to try and move the knife away from me, knowing I had to get away. Otherwise, I'd die."

He managed to push away from Rintoul and get back on his feet, but as he faced the suspect, he noticed Rintoul starting to get off the ground.

"I fired three rounds in his direction before becoming overwhelmed by my injuries and losing strength," Fraser testified.

Li has testified that he also fired four shots at Rintoul before backup arrived and he was able to attend to his injured partner.

The inquest has heard that four officers then formed a line between Fraser and Rintoul, who, still gripping the knife, sprayed them with the bear spray as he struggled to rise.

Const. Josh Wong fired the final shots at Rintoul. He testified last week that he noticed the rifle lying on the ground near the suspect's feet and believed it to be loaded, so when Rintoul tried to stand again, he had no choice but to fire.

Fraser required surgery to recover from the stabbing. His bowels were hit by the knife, and a lung was punctured.

He said he still feels the effects of the physical injuries, while the lasting psychological impacts include serious problems with his memory and sleep.

"Since that incident, I've had two nights of adequate sleep," Fraser told the jury.