Three people testified on day one of the coroner’s inquest into the death of Brydon Whitstone.
The 22-year-old from Onion Lake was fatally shot in an altercation with the RCMP in North Battleford on Oct. 21, 2017.
Eighteen witnesses are anticipated to give testimony.
Among them Monday was Regina Police Service Detective Sgt. Pierre Beauchesne with the RCMP Major Crimes Unit and the lead investigator in the independent investigation into the fatal shooting. It determined no criminal charges would be laid against the officer involved.
He studied interviews with the RCMP constable involved in the shooting as well as Amanda Wahobinwho was a passenger in Whitstone’s vehicle,
He said Wahobin believed the RCMP thought Whitstone had a weapon although he didn’t actually have anything. He testified that Wahobin said Whitstone wanted to die because he had said earlier he was unhappy with his life. She said he pretended to reach for a weapon at the time of the incident although “he had nothing. “
Police did not find any weapon in the vehicle with Whitstone.
From the interview of the RCMP officer involved in the shooting, Beauchesne said the officer at first reported Whitstone reached down to his left side, then later said he reached to his right, contradicting himself.
The officer had drawn his firearm, and when he saw Whitstone appear to reach for what he thought was a weapon he fired twice in response to a perceivable threat.
One bullet entered Whitstone’s abdomen and the other his chest cavity.
Earlier in the day, Sgt. Rob Zentner with the RCMP Major Crimes Unit in Saskatoon told the court his office was notified about the fatal shooting that night and his team arrived to investigate in the early morning hours of Oct. 22.
Zentner said a live round was found inside Whitstone’s stomach as if he had swallowed it, and several other bullets were found on his clothing but no firearm.
Zentner testified that Whitstone’s car had been boxed in by five police vehicles and officers had made many attempts to get the occupants to exit the vehicle. He said police broke the driver’s side window of the suspect’s car and ordered them out, but the two remained inside. Eventually, he said Wahobin was removed.
Court also heard from retired RCMP officer Jeff Soroka who now works for the Battlefords RCMP training members to use police cruiser video recorders.
In his testimony, he said, at the time of the incident, only three of 18 police cruisers were equipped with video cameras. Only one camera captured a snippet of a video on the night of the incident but not of the shooting itself. Soroka said all cruisers now have the recorders installed.
The inquest will continue Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. and is expected to conclude Friday.
During an afternoon break in the proceedings Monday, Whitstone’s mother Dorothy Laboucane, appeared emotional, wiping tears from her face after hearing some of the testimony.
Following court, Whitstone’s family legal counsel lawyer Stephanie Lavallee said while the Regina Police Service had investigated the fatal shooting, they are another police service, and that “nothing erodes public confidence and trust more than police investigating themselves.”
Jury selection occurred Monday morning. Six people were selected, three of which self-identify as Indigenous.
The inquest jury will rule on how Whitstone died and make recommendations on how to prevent deaths like his in the future.