REGINA – The family of an Indigenous man killed by Saskatchewan RCMP says they hope an inquest will tell them why police felt the need to open fire.
A coroner’s inquest into Brydon Whitstone’s death is to be heard from Dec. 3 to 7 in North Battleford, Sask., the Ministry of Justice said Tuesday. There will be no criminal charges laid in the case. Whitstone, 22, from Onion Lake Cree Nation, died after being shot in October 2017.
RCMP have said they pursued a vehicle after reports of a man being chased and shot at in North Battleford. The chase ended shortly after the suspect rammed a cruiser. That is when officers opened fire.
“Why did he shoot him twice? Why did he even shoot him?” said Whitstone’s mother, Dorothy Laboucane, when asked about the inquest.
Laboucane wonders why officers didn’t Taser her son instead of killing him. She said it’s about time that an inquest was called. “My whole family needs closure, we need answers and we need to get to the bottom of this, the truth,” she said.
Whitstone’s brother Daniel Lewis said he wants video of the death shot by bystanders to be shown at the inquest. Lewis said shortly after the shooting several videos were put on Facebook, but have since been taken down. Whitstone’s last breaths could be heard on one of the videos, Lewis said.
“I hear his voice every night,” Lewis said. “Watching him die on video. Those were his last words alive.”
The family is also eager to see whether the inquest will show if the RCMP has covered anything up.
“I just want to hear the side of what these RCMP are going to say in the investigation,” Lewis said.
RCMP turned the investigation over to Regina police shortly after the shooting and the review was overseen by the Justice Ministry.
Justice Ministry executive director Drew Wilby said that more details about what actions led to the death will be unveiled at the inquest.
The RCMP said it welcomes the coroner’s inquest as it will allow for full disclosure of the case’s facts.
“During the inquest, we expect to disclose our members’ role in this matter including all investigative/enforcement steps that were taken with the ultimate goal of ensuring public and officer safety during critical incidents such as this,” RCMP said in a news release.
Lawyer Ron Piche is representing Whitstone’s family and said there has been a lot of delay in the case trying to get information.
He said the inquest will allow the family to get some questions answered.
“Whether at the end of the day the answers they receive are going to be accepted or acceptable to them, we’ll leave that for the inquest itself,” Piche said.