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Peter's Story

On March 2, 2011, RCMP Cst. Peter Neily was involved in a fatal shooting in Surrey, B.C. where, in self-defense, he fired 30 rounds at a violent offender armed with an assault rifle. This is his story.

Transcript

On March 2, 2011, RCMP Cst. Peter Neily was involved in a fatal shooting in Surrey, B.C. where, in self-defense, he fired 30 rounds at a violent offender armed with an assault rifle.

>> RM: Rifle pointed at a Member, nobody talk.

>> NEILY: Surrey (inaudible). We need ERT here.

>> OCC: We’re getting ERT. Time returned.

>> NEILY: Suspect in possession of an AR-15. He pointed it at me. Multiple shots fired.

>> OCC: Shots fired at a Member of the RCMP and we’re getting ERT.

>> NEILY: I’m out of my vehicle I’m safe. He’s still in his vehicle. The vehicle is pinned by my car.

>> ERT: Surrey you got ERT responding.

After the traumatic incident

When I begin to think about and talk about this incident, my mouth gets dry to the point where I can barely open my mouth anymore.

>> Sgt. Dean Jantzen (Saanich Police): There were several rounds fired. By whom and in what order, again we cant confirm any of those details.

>> CBC Anchor: What they can confirm is that Purdie had a loaded .22 caliber rifle modified to look like this military assault rifle, in his lap.

>> Sgt. Jantzen: The muzzle for the assault rifle was pointed in the direction in line with where the officer that was involved would have been seated in his vehicle.

Officially cleared of wrongdoing

It was released publicly that I had been cleared by the external police department doing the investigation of the incident, and they found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

But what happened when that phone call did come was completely unexpected for me but it was a huge shock to me emotionally and in a way what triggered it is I began to think about what the individual who I had the interaction with that night the deceased what his family was going through and what his friends were going through because of it.

Behavioural changes

I began to notice changes in myself, perhaps not right away but I began to isolate myself at home and from people, from co-workers.

And I began drinking quite heavily in a way that wasn’t social, it wasn’t any of those things that’s acceptable by society to go out with friends and enjoy a good time in a responsible manner. This was me basically staying away from everyone, staying at home, staying out of everyone’s way and drinking myself to sleep.

I wasn’t driving my car drunk, I wasn’t you know getting in trouble in any of those disciplinary ways, but I was destroying my family relationship.

I didn’t want to bring a police car for the risk of getting called out and if I had been drinking and then saying oh I can’t go because I’m drinking. I just wanted to hide it. But that ended up causing a pretty significant conflict with another co-worker of mine who I respected and I think it was one think that kind of made me realize so as much as I think I’m not letting people down, this member has been on call five nights this week just like he was last week and I haven’t done any. I’m no longer part of the team, what’s my major contribution?

It’s a really hard feeling to describe but I described it to other police officers that I’ve spoken to since then who went through similar things, but I would get in my car at the end of the day to drive home and I would just sit there and not even turn the car on and not even turn the radio on but just sit there and think OK, I am not happy at work, I don’t feel like people like me, I don’t really have any friends anymore because I just abandon everyone, and I’m not happy at home because I’m making everyone miserable there, so I just can’t deal with the stress.

I ended up going through a phase where I did some really weird things that like one of them was I became I wouldn’t say obsessed but I spent an awful lot of money on purchasing publications and magazines and manuals about guns. I’ve never had a huge interest in guns before but suddenly I felt I needed to know everything you could possibly know about firearms.

I think that was part of my feeling, my hyper vigilance that I needed to be prepared for whatever could happen. It got to a point where I made sure there was a first aid kit in every vehicle and corner of the room and I became obsessed with that too.

Do you have PTSD?

I don’t use that term, I don’t use PTSD. And the reason for that is again a very personal feeling but the last word in PTSD is disorder and I tend to use the term occupational stress injury because it was an injury, a real injury that I did suffer because of the stress of my occupation and it’s work-related so I was dealing with alcoholism as well as an occupational stress injury.

Fear of stigma

It was easier to sit back, not call anyone to ask for that help, and then be the same one under the same breath saying oh nobody cares about me. I shouldn’t need to make the steps to participate it should just be I’ve let people know I’m having a problem, therefore the magic wand should now be passed and, number one, I should be fine, and number two, this should just fall into place and everybody should be calling me to make sure I’m ok and that’s not the case and that’s not realistic but I only know that now that it’s not realistic.

It was so easy to pick up the phone and call my lawyer and see where things were at and stuff, but why is it so hard to pick up the phone and call your doctor and say you’re having a bad day? Because you think that again it’s that feeling oh I’ll lose my job, it’s that feeling that I’m going to be stigmatized, everybody’s going to look at me funny. Again you just have to make that first step.

Getting help

So I did eventually meet with the doctor medical staff psychologist who still to this day I’m totally comfortable saying that I still from time to time do meet with this doctor and I started to get an incredible amount of support from the standpoint of this individual is not a police officer but they are somebody who obviously knows psychology and understands trauma.

So then the next step was I was referred and was accepted into treatment for over at a Veterans Affairs hospital for Veterans Affairs Canada, which is available to RCMP members and I only found that out through the Force.

Coming to terms with the incident

There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about that and think about his family and also knowing after the fact that the individual did struggle with addictions, through my understanding and learning a bit about addictions, in this program I started to lose a lot of the anger that I held from the incident and in a way, started to make the first steps to kind of making peace with what had occurred and also with the individual himself.

Recovery

And so the moment I knew everything was OK was the day that I finished my graduated return to work and at the time I was helping out a sergeant here with some disclosure on a file and came into the office that morning and I said yeah I got my clearance, I’m good to go back out on the road and instantly it was like cool, want to write a search warrant?

Ok, sounds good. So I was right back at it. And without realizing it, that right there, that vote of confidence that I got from that sergeant was everything to me.

We talk about survival mentality and the survival mentality is that in use of force situations or encounters with suspects, you know you use the survival mentality, you do everything you can to survive that fight. But I think we need to transition that survival mentality into also surviving after the lights are turned off, after the siren’s off, after once the scene is clear and that we need to continue to try to survive because I don’t even want to sit here and think about what it would be like today for me if I hadn’t got this help.

Employee Assistance Services

I can tell you that you do hear all the rumours that it’s going to change and it’s not going to be as good, having personally called that number for an issue, I can’t believe how good it was. 24/7, who else are you going to call at two in the morning who you actually know is on the other end of the phone if you’re really having a bad time. And then the other thing is it was like the next day when a referral called me to say can we set up an appointment? It works. We need things like that because if you’re afraid of talking to other cops about things or you’re embarrassed about it, then talk to a professional about it.

We talk about survival mentality and the survival mentality is that in use of force situations or encounters with suspects, you know you use the survival mentality, you do everything you can to survive that fight. But I think we need to transition that survival mentality into also surviving after the lights are turned off, after the siren’s off, after once the scene is clear and that we need to continue to try to survive because I don’t even want to sit here and think about what it would be like today for me if I hadn’t got this help.

Final words

I wanted to tell my story because one of the things that I found this really easy to do is to sit back and be negative about everything.

If you listen to everything you hear around you right now, in the media and again this is not the media’s fault, you’ll hear that there is no support for anyone going through post traumatic stress disorders or occupational stress injuries or anything and it’s just not true. It’s just not true.

Need help?

Call Employee Assistance Services (1-800-268-7708) or visit the RCMP Infoweb under Your Health for more information.

>> RM: Shots fired shots fired as I speak.

>> OCC: Are they Members’ or the suspects?

>> NEILY: Surrey, there’s a PC pinned.

>> OCC: Copy PC pinned.