“Gerry? Gerry?” the RCMP officer called out to the motionless body he had just fired upon. There was no sound, no movement, just Gerald Lord lying on the staircase after being shot in the head.
New details are emerging about the death of the 42-year-old man who was shot in Holdfast on Sept. 11, 2013, after an altercation with police. The coroner’s inquest into Lord’s death began at Regina’s Court of Queen’s Bench Monday morning, and is expected to last five days.
Several RCMP officers and medical experts are scheduled to testify in front of a six-person jury.
The first to take the stand was the only officer directly involved with the incident. There is a publication ban on his last name due to an unrelated police investigation, so he can only be referred to as Constable Eric.
Outlining how the altercation first began, the officer described how he received a complaint from a man who had been a friend of Lord’s, calling to report the threat of physical harm and harassment. Const. Eric met with the complainant and quickly realized Lord was constantly texting and calling him.
That is when Const. Eric decided to go to Lord’s home. He testified the property was very dark and loud music was emanating from inside the house. His knocking went unheard the first time, so he decided to wait about 15 seconds and knock again, only this time harder. The music got quieter and Lord opened the door.
Trying to get information out of him, Eric said he asked Lord a number of basic questions, including what he was doing inside the home.
“He was just staring blank,” the constable described to the courtroom, insisting that he wasn’t used to that type of reaction.
Asking Lord to step outside, the door was almost shut in Eric’s face without a word, he explained, but he stuck his foot in and attempted to arrest Lord. Only able to slap one handcuff onto his wrist, Eric quickly realized the much bigger Lord was resisting arrest.
The Mountie described how he was shuffled up against the back wall near the door and choked with the chain of the handcuff, as both of Lord’s hands were tightly gripping his Kevlar vest around the collar. All the while, Lord was squeezing his jaw in anger.
“Get out of my house or I’ll kill you,” yelled Lord according to Const. Eric’s testimony.
“I feared for my life,” he added.
Asking Lord to let go at least 10 times, the officer – specially trained in emergency response – reached for his taser and tried to deploy it. However, the safety was still on. Trying a second time on an unbalanced angle with limited aim, Eric figures he missed since there was no response from Lord.
Running out of options, Eric said he reached for his gun with one hand and let off two shots. It was at that time Lord relieved some of the pressure, allowing the constable enough time to get both hands on the gun and pull the trigger for a third time. This bullet struck the back of Lord’s head, sending him falling into the staircase.
The constable was passed a box of tissues during his recollection of the events, visibly teary-eyed. The tears continued to flow as audio from dispatch of that night was played for the jury and courtroom, along with a voicemail Lord had left on his former friend’s phone.
During questioning by lawyers, it was established that aiming for the head was all part of RCMP training.
Officers are taught to fire at the body, then the head as a failure drill or last resort. This is especially true in tight spaces. Cst. Eric said he had the intent of going to Lord’s home to charge him with criminal harassment, feeling he had enough evidence.
A few months after the incident originally happened, it was deemed Const. Eric, who was a member of the RCMP since 2010, would not face charges.
The jury’s duty is not to find fault or assign blame to anyone at an inquest. Instead, jurors will determine when, where and how the death occurred. Additionally, jurors may choose to come up with recommendations to help prevent a similar type of death from happening again.