Steve Mesic inquest still searching for answers to key questions

Saturday marks the first anniversary of Steve Mesic's death at the hands of two Hamilton police officers. The inquest into the shooting death wrapped up its first week raising more questions about what happened in the field by his home a year ago.

The ten day inquest continued Friday with continued questions about the shooting scene.

Steve Mesic was shot and killed in June 2013. An inquest into the former steelworker's death continues Thursday. (Mesic family)

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of her fiancé's death, Sharon Dorr sat in the front row of the inquest into the police shooting of Steve Mesic, absorbing another perspective and another telling of what happened just before he was killed.

Dorr, who has an eight-month-old son at the home where his father was killed, describes the inquest experience as "brutal." The brave face that she keeps in court, is only in court. 

"You don't see what happens in the car," Dorr told CBCHamlton.

The first week of of the Mesic Inquest has left questions and discordant details of what happened beside his Mountain home.

Conflicting testimony

Conflicting testimony between civilian witness and police accounts has failed to provide a definitive answer on how far away Mesic was from two Hamilton Police officers, constables Michael McLellan and Kevin Farrell, when they shot at him nine times. 

The difference in distance is a question of either five feet, what the officers allege, and 39 feet, the "hard evidence" distance between the shell casings and Mesic's body.

There's also conflicting reports if Mesic yelled back when police engaged him outside his Mountain home. That home is a short walk from one of two suicide attempts that morning by Mesic, who jumped into traffic on the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, and at the bottom of the Jolley Cut. 

The house in question is still the home for Dorr and her son. In her first comments since the inquest began, she said it's a house she "couldn't imagine" anyone else living at. 

"It comes with mixed emotions," Dorr said. "I fee that's where Steve and his life is… And now I'm raising his son there."

Mesic's ​fiancé: 'I don't feel I will ever get the truth'

She declined to comment specifically on the conflicting testimony, but instead, the inquest as a whole. There, Dorr was clear: she doesn't believe there will be any definitive picture as to what transcribed outside her patio door.

"It's very emotional for me," Dorr said. "I don't feel I will ever get the full truth, the full scope of what happened."

"I'm carrying a lot of different ideas as to what happened." 

The inquest coincidentally coincides with the one-year anniversary of Mesic's death. Dorr said a memorial and toast at Mesic's grave will be followed by stories among friends Saturday. 

But on Friday, Dorr said her eight-month-old son was at home with a friend so she could attend the morning's testimony. Over the past week, the inquest has heard details of the events a year ago. 

One-year anniversary of Mesic death

On June 6, a year ago Friday, Mesic would have been getting cleared for voluntary status at a St. Joseph's Hospital psychiatric ward. 

Mesic was given "off-ward" passes in the locked-down ward, despite having reported to nurses in the morning he had suicidal ideations - specifically thoughts that he could jump off a building. 

That night, Mesic signed out for an hour and walked off hospital grounds, escorting his then-pregnant fiancée to her car some eight minutes away. No one at the hospital knew, according to testimony earlier this week about his time away, on a 30-person ward staffed by 8 nurses and a doctor. No one thought to ask.

The next day, Mesic signed out shortly after 8 a.m. The inquest heard from an HSR bus driver that Mesic walked out in the path of his bus, opened his arms and waited for the bus to hit him, which it did. Hospital records show him on the ward until shortly before 11 a.m., long after he was dead up the mountain.

The impact of the bus that morning, however, merely knocked him down and Mesic continued on. He later tried to jump out in front of traffic on the Linc, but again, was unsuccessful in his suicide attempt. 

Police were called in and from there on out, the details remain unclear. 

SIU lead investigator: 'We're never going to know' 

Police say that they followed Mesic up the ramp at the Linc and Upper Wentworth, where Const. Farrell was met by Const. McLellan. They testified they heard a bang and went through a densely wooded lot between Mesic's house and the highway, and found Mesic with a shovel attempting to break in. They also testified this week that he climbed underneath a chain link fence with that shovel and got within five or six feet before they shot him. Lastly, the officers say Mesic walked some 30 feet away after he was shot six times by .40 calibre hollow-point bullets. Five bullets were in his upper chest, one was in his back.

But in his testimony to the province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Cons. Farrell says Mesic only walked a "few steps." 

On Friday, that discrepancy took centre stage at the inquest. Hard evidence shows the shell casings 39 feet away from Mesic's body. The ground, which the officers said was too unstable to approach Mesic for a non-lethal arrest, was traversed some 30 feet by a man with six bullets in his chest, while holding a shovel. 

Dean Seymour, the lead investigator for the SIU, was questioned Friday as to why it took him nearly three weeks to interview both officers involved in the shooting. 

Later, he was asked the three questions hanging over the inquest about the shooting by regional coroner Dr. Jack Stanborough: Was Mesic in fact in the backyard; did he have a shovel; and was he six feet from the officers when he was shot? 

Seymour gave definitive answers on the first two, testifying a t-shirt he was spotted carrying on the Linc was found hanging on the fence in the backyard, meaning he believes Mesic was in fact inside the fence. Second, witnesses heard officers yelling at Mesic to put "something" down, so he believes he may have been holding something.

But the last - the distance between Mesic and the officers when he opened fire, he couldn't answer.

"The distance part?" Seymour asked, "That we're never going to know."

The 10-day inquest continues Monday.


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