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IIO: Police did not cause Langley man’s death in fire

Report outlines details of standoff that ended in tragedy
The fire-gutted barn in the 23500 block of Zero Avenue. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

WARNING: This story contains disturbing content

Police and firefighters could not have safely reached a Langley man who died in a burning building last November, a report from the Independent Investigations Office released May 30 said.

The IIO was looking into the death of a man they refer to in the report as the Affected Person or AP, who died after setting fire to his home during a standoff with the Emerency Response Team and local RCMP.

The man has been identified by family members as 66-year-old Don Bennett.

Speaking to the Langley Advance Times last year, his daughter Nicky McIntosh described her father as non-violent and kind, and said he had been having mental health issues just before his death.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Langley man believed dead in police confrontation was kind, non-violent, family says

The IIO report by interim civilian director Sandra J. Hentzen looks into whether police actions caused Bennett’s death. Hentzen found that none of the actions of police caused Bennett’s death.

The report sheds more light on how the standoff began, and how police responded after Bennett fired a rifle through a door during the early part of the confrontation.

On the morning of Nov. 10, 2023, a witness called 911 to report receiving texts from Bennett, with the texts seeming both suicidal and potentially threatening. They included statements like “you deliberately destroyed my life” and “I have nothing more to lose.”

Officers went to Bennett’s home, which was a structure inside a larger commercial-style building on a farm in the 23500 block of Zero Avenue. The IIO report described it as a room within the farm building constructed from plywood.

The first oficers found the outer door to the larger building padlocked, and they could not find Bennett’s car. There were no responses to knocking.

Police tried to reach Bennett by phone call and text, and tried to ping his cellphone without success.

At 2 p.m. officers returned to Bennett’s home to try again, and they found the padlock on the outer door had been removed.

There was a pit bull in a fenced enclosure linked to the main building, and another was barking inside. The Langley RCMP officers called in the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) for animal control help.

LAPS staff wrangled the first dog, and an officer crawled through the dog door to open a larger door to the main building from the inside.

The officers kept calling out for Bennett, but couldn’t find him. They tried to get into the plywood room, but the dog was barking and lunging at the door. The police could not see Bennett.

Worried he was deceased, they asked LAPS staff to try to capture the second dog so they could enter to check for Bennett. While LAPS workers were in the middle of that effort, a shot was fired from inside the plywood room, out from the door area. One LAPS staffer said he felt debris from the door hit his body.

Police and animal control retreated and took cover, and the Langley RCMP called in the Emergency Response Team (ERT), who took over on the scene.

The ERT inserted drones into the main building, and gained video footage of some of what happened after that.

According to the report, Bennet fired a rifle at one of the drones once.

He was later seen lighting a fire inside his home, throwing burning material around the room, and spraying some sort of accelerant onto the floor.

The footage shows he had “no intention of leaving the room as the fire grows,” the report said.

The ERT used an armoured vehicle to punch a hole in an exterior wall and inserted a chemical gas in an attempt to get Bennett to leave the burning building.

Because of the gunshots already fired, police did not let Township firefighters get close enough to extinguish the blaze until after midnight, when the firefighters told police that the fire was not survivable.

Bennett’s body was found several days later. A 30-30 rifle and several expended cartridges were also located in the burned out building.

“There is nothing in the evidence gathered in this investigation to give grounds for a conclusion that police were responsible for AP’s death, or that any officer committed any offence,” said the report.

The responses to the wellness check, including attempting to enter his home to check on him, were reasonable given the texts and his failure to respond, Hentzen wrote in the report.

The gunshot through the door escalated the situation, she noted.

“The motivation behind AP’s unfortunate decision to set his home on fire will of course never be known, but the video evidence establishes that it was not prompted by any unjustifiable actions on the part of the ERT officers,” Henzten wrote.

Once the building was on fire, with Bennett still armed inside, it wasn’t possible for firefighters to approach without risking their own safety.

If you feel like you are in crisis or are considering suicide, please call the Crisis Centre BC suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.

Other resources include: Canada Suicide Prevention Service at Toll free: 1-833-456-4566. You can also text 45645 or visit the online chat service at

Some warning signs include suicidal thoughts, anger, recklessness, mood changes, anxiety, lack of purpose, helplessness and substance use.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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