The jury at the coroner’s inquest in North Battleford has been unable to determine why an Onion Lake man was fatally shot.
Brydon Whitstone was killed in an altercation with the RCMP after crashing into two police cars last October.
RCMP had said he made a move toward his waist area, but a gun was never found.
The presiding coroner had asked the jury to determine if the manner of Whitstone’s death was homicide, suicide or undetermined.
Whitstone had both meth and alcohol in his body at the time of his death — and had told his girlfriend, a passenger in the vehicle, he wanted to die.
Jury made one recommendation: Directed to the RCMP : the jury recommends the use of a taser gun or other intervention to immobilize or stun the suspect first, prior to the use of a gun. #whitstoneinquest
— Angela Brown (@OCoureurDesBois) December 7, 2018
Whitstone’s mother believes police should have tried to use other means to subdue her son.
Dorothy Laboucane spoke outside Battleford Court of Queen’s Bench Wednesday afternoon.
After hearing three days’-worth of testimony from witnesses on scene the night of her son’s death, including the officer who shot her son, paramedics, forensic investigators and Whitstone’s girlfriend Amanda Wahobin, she said she believes the night could have had a different outcome.
“They just wanted to play the hero. There were other ways of subduing him,” Laboucane said while holding back tears.
The police could have shot him in the arm or Tasered him, she said, and her son would still be here today.
“My son would be in jail,” she said. “But he isn’t.”
Const. Jerry Abbott is the officer who shot and killed Whitstone.
He testified he fired his weapon in response to what he saw as a threat to life.
Abbott said he fired a second shot because Whitstone was still moving after the first.
He said Whitstone initially had both hands on the steering wheel of the white Buick LeSabre he was driving, but then reached both hands into his pants.
Abbott testified he suspected Whitstone was trying to find a gun.
After he shot Whitstone, he and RCMP officer Marco Johnson pulled Whitstone out of the vehicle’s broken window.
He then performed chest compressions on Whitstone before paramedics arrived to try to resuscitate him.
Abbott said he wasn’t concerned about any risk of cross-fire when he shot Whitstone, because of the angle of his pistol.
He said he aimed for Whitstone’s chest “to stop the threat.”
Under questioning, Abbott mentioned his RCMP training helped because he said he did not hesitate at the time of the incident.
He told court the incident was a high-risk situation as he had been told the vehicle Whitstone was driving had already been involved in a drive-by shooting.
As well, he said he believed the lives of the passenger in the vehicle and other officers at the scene were potentially at risk.
RCMP Const. Greg Hugo was at the scene and had his gun drawn.
He said he also believed the incident was a high-risk situation due to a number of factors; Whitstone was suspected to have a weapon, the vehicle was still rolling back and forth after being boxed in, and the driver didn’t comply with RCMP commands to stop and surrender.
Hugo said he went to the driver’s side door but couldn’t open it because it was damaged. He and officer Marco Johnson both tried to pull Whitstone’s left arm through the window and remove him before the shots were fired.
Hugo said he knew Whitstone from a prior encounter and when he saw him fading after being shot he yelled, “Come on Brydon; stay with us.”
Prior to the shots, he said he heard someone say to watch for the crossfire.
Const. Trevor Sowers also took the stand and testified he saw Whitstone’s hand go under his pants.
He said he had considered shooting but was worried about the possibility of cross-fire since there were other officers in the vicinity.
Sowers said initially the LeSabre’s windows were fogged up until they were smashed by the RCMP and pepper spray was discharged.
Sowers said the windshield of the vehicle didn’t appear to be fogged over, however.
Moments before Whitstone was shot, Sowers said he was at the front of the vehicle, focused on the driver’s seat.
He said he saw Whitstone’s right hand go down under his pants.
“I thought he was getting a gun,” Sowers said. “I’ve never seen someone so motivated to want to get away from us.”
Before lunch, Const. Marco Johnson testified and said he was on duty when RCMP were pursuing Whitstone’s vehicle in North Battleford.
Johnson was driving a Chevrolet Tahoe which was struck by the white Buick LeSabre Whitstone was driving.
Johnson said he estimated the LeSabre was traveling at 80 to 100 kilometres per hour in an alley when it hit a Ford Escape, a fence, and then his Tahoe.
Johnson said he got out of his vehicle and was holding his pistol as he looked and ran to take cover behind a tree.
He said the inside of the vehicle was starting to fog up, making it difficult for him to see inside.
Johnson then ran up and broke the glass of the driver’s side window, took cover once again, and then returned and broke the passenger side window.
He said he tried to pull Whitstone’s hands off the steering wheel but was only able to get his left arm out.
“I pulled hard,” he said.
Johnson said Whitstone resisted further attempts to extract him from the vehicle.
Johnson said he saw Whitstone’s right hand go down towards his pants.
At the same time, he heard other officers shouting at Whitstone to show his hands but Whitstone did not respond.
Johnson said if he couldn’t pull Whitstone out by the arm he planned to pull him out by his hair.
He said after Whitstone’s right hand went down, he feared he was reaching for a weapon, and heard two gunshots go off just seconds apart, but did not know which officer fired.
“I recalled him gurgling,” he told the court.
He and another officer then removed Whitstone from the car while another performed CPR.
Johnson said he stayed at the scene in a state of shock and later went to the hospital with Whitstone’s body.
Const. Garrett Dove was in the Ford Explorer that Whitstone hit that night. He testified he had to leave his vehicle due to the amount of damage.
He said he got out of his vehicle and pulled out his firearm because of a possible “life or death” situation.
Dove confimred RCMP did release pepper spray into Whitstone’s vehicle.
Debbie Baptise, the mother of Colten Boushie, arrived again Wednesday to offer support to the Whitstone family.
See held signs reading First Nations Lives Matter and Justice for Brydon.
– With files from