B.C. Supreme Courthouse in New Westminster where RCMP Const. Jeff Van Woerden was acquitted on Feb. 20 of assaulting James Vidal, who was killed in a targeted homicide in Chilliwack 18 days later on March 10. (Tom Zytaruk, Black Press file)

B.C. RCMP officer acquitted of 2013 assault of a man murdered days ago

One time Solicitor General John Les says officer deserves an apology from former RCMP superintendent

A Chilliwack RCMP officer facing serious criminal charges after an allegedly aggressive 2013 arrest was acquitted on all counts in B.C. Supreme Court last month.

Adding a twist to the case, the complainant in that criminal case against Const. Jeff Van Woerden was none other than James Vidal, the victim in a violent murder by firearm on Alexander Avenue in Chilliwack on Sunday.

• READ MORE: IHIT identify Chilliwack homicide victim as James Vidal

According to a number of people who followed Van Woerden’s case from charges in 2016 to acquittal on Feb. 20 in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, the police officer was essentially thrown under the bus by his employer.

Back then, in August 2016, the Chilliwack RCMP announced in a statement that Van Woerden was charged with assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, and perjury.

“These are serious charges,” said Supt. Deanne Burleigh, Officer in Charge of the RCMP’s Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment at that time.

“The allegations demonstrate conduct that is not in keeping of my expectations for our members. Const. Van Woerden will now have an opportunity to answer to these allegations in court.”

• READ MORE: Chilliwack RCMP member facing charges

Former Chilliwack mayor, MLA and one-time Solicitor General John Les said this week that he didn’t know the details of the allegations against the officer, but he remembers being concerned about the tone of Burleigh’s remarks.

Of the above quote from Burleigh, Les said his response was that the allegations against the officer were just that: allegations.

“They demonstrated nothing, until proven in court,” Les told The Progress this week.“Now that we know Van Woerden was acquitted, I think Supt. Burleigh owes him an apology for her presumptuous comment. She appeared to jump to a conclusion that has now been proven erroneous.”

Les is not the only one to contact The Progress, of those not happy about Van Woerden’s treatment by the RCMP especially now in light of his acquittal.

Van Woerden’s lawyer was asked if he would comment on behalf of his client about the case but he suggested he needed instructions from Van Woerden to do so and did not respond with details before going to press. Without those instructions from Van Woerden, Vancouver lawyer David Butcher did confirm that his client was acquitted of all counts, and that the complainant was James Vidal who died in a hail of bullets on Alexander Avenue on March 10.

There is no suggestion the two matter are related, but some critics of Van Woerden’s treatment point to the extensive criminal history and alleged gang involvement of his accuser as a further reason why the police officer should have not been charged in the first place.

For those who did not attend, the details of the B.C. Supreme Court case will not be known until when, and if, a written decision is produced.

When Van Woerden was first arrested it was reported that a separate code of conduct investigation was ongoing and the officer was suspended with pay.

A spokesperson for RCMP headquarters at ‘E’ Division in Surrey confirmed on March 15 that Const. Van Woerden is still currently suspended with pay.

“His duty status is subject to continual review and assessment. We will be reviewing the written judicial decision to determine next steps with respect to the internal Code of Conduct process,” Sgt. Janelle Sholhet said via email.

• READ MORE: RCMP’s Emergency Response Team raid ‘clubhouse’ near Chilliwack homicide scene


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Courtenay residential community offers nightly balcony salute to frontline workers

Residents of The Tides in Courtenay gathered, social distancing intact, to salute… Continue reading

COVID-19: Isolation exemptions to frontline workers a danger to patients, say Island Health employees

Staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel according to Island Health

Comox Valley RCMP adapt to new strategies during pandemic

The detachment is finding a balance between protecting public safety and the needs of its members.

New Asian/Mexican grocery store opens in Courtenay

Goods Grocery moves, changes focus

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

Comox Valley Beefs & Bouquets switches to ‘Only Bouquets’

We are all in need of positive reinforcement; send us your cheerful notes

Comox Valley grocers going extra mile during coronavirus

We have had numerous requests to post a fluid article directing consumers… Continue reading

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

COVID-19: Qualicum Beach youngster gets car parade for his sixth birthday

Friends get creative after party cancelled due to ongoing pandemic

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

Nanaimo RCMP ask for help locating 17-year-old girl believed to be with 36-year-old man

Mary Cyprich, missing since Thurday, might be in company of Force Forsythe

Most Read