Brydon Whitstone's family, FSIN call for new investigations following RCMP-involved fatal shooting
Brydon Whitstone was killed in October 2017 after crashing through two police cars following a pursuit. A coroner’s inquest last week in Battleford was unable to determine if the fatal shooting of Whitstone by RCMP was a homicide or a suicide.
Family members of Brydon Whitstone are calling for a new investigation into his shooting death by an RCMP officer last October, to be launched and conducted immediately by an independent civilian oversight body, and for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice to conduct its own review of the original investigation.
Whitstone’s family made the appeal on Tuesday morning, days after a coroners’ inquest jury returned with a finding that it could not determine whether the 22-year-old father of two’s shooting by an RCMP officer on Oct. 21, 2017 was a homicide or suicide. RCMP attempted to stop the vehicle Whitstone was driving, but he fled, leading police on a short pursuit during which he crashed into two cruisers. An officer shot Whitstone, who died shortly afterward.
The family, supported by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, wants a body such as the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team or Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit to conduct a new investigation into his death. They also want the Ministry of Justice to review the circumstances leading up to the shooting, and to take a second look at the investigation conducted by police in Regina.
The FSIN has not reached out to either ASIRT or the SIU, but FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat said they plan to do so. He said the family is considering a lawsuit.
“We recognize that the official coroner’s report will wait for that as well. But having sat there for the entirety of the inquest, serious, serious inconsistencies have been noted by the family and the legal counsel,” Lerat said.
The family, through their lawyer, Stephanie Lavallee of Semaganis Worme Legal, cited contradicting accounts of what happened immediately before Whitstone was shot. One account was that Whitstone’s left arm was restrained in an armbar — which involves the twisting of someone’s arm to hyperextend it or damage their shoulder or elbow — while the subject officer said both of Whitstone’s hands were in his pants.
“It would be impossible for both of his hands to be in his pants when his left hand was in an armbar outside the vehicle when he got shot,” Lavallee said.
Onion Lake councillor Leon Whitstone, who said Brydon Whitstone was his nephew, spoke on behalf of band leadership and said they felt an injustice was done.
“Hopefully we can move forward in trying to get a better judgement, to get better details on the investigation and further perceive a better answer for the family,” he said.
The inquest jury returned one recommendation: that RCMP officers use a Taser or similar device to immobilize someone instead of firearms.
Whitstone’s mother, Dorothy Laboucane, told media she had expected more recommendations.
“I just hope that after all this is said and done, that all those recommendations that we are requesting and asking for that they do come to light and this kind of situation that we are going through stops,” she said.
The inquest jury heard that Whitstone had both meth and alcohol in his body at the time of his death and had told his passenger he wanted to die. An RCMP sergeant testified at the inquest that he released pepper spray inside the car containing Whitstone but he did not react to it.
Const. Jerry Abbott, who fired the fatal shots, told the inquest that Whitstone appeared to reach for something in his pocket, which he thought was a gun, so he fired at Whitstone twice, hitting him in the chest.
Jurors heard that Whitstone did not have a gun, although he did have ammunition in his pocket.
Laboucane said she believes her son fled from police because he was on probation and had already breached his curfew.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Drew Wilby, in an email, said complaints about a municipal police service in the province should be directed to the Public Complaints Commission.
“This independent, civilian led commission has jurisdiction as the matter referenced by the FSIN deals with the Regina Police Service and its investigation,” he wrote. He also said complaints about RCMP actions should be directed to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.
A spokesperson said RCMP aren’t in a position to speak to the possibility of a new investigation being opened into Whitstone’s death.
On Friday, RCMP released a statement after the inquest concluded, saying it will examine the recommendation and respond to the Chief Coroner.
“It is important to remember that no matter what the investigations into this incident have determined a young man lost his life,” it said.
Published: December 11, 2018
- Posted By: Thia James
- Comments: 0