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Matthew Dumas celebrates his 17th birthday in this 2003 photo. ((Canadian Press))

The inquest into a police shooting that resulted in the death of an 18-year-old Winnipeg man heard gripping testimony Thursday morning from a police officer who said he tried unsuccessfully to subdue the victim shortly before shots were fired by another officer.

Det.-Const. John Mateychuk's voice broke several times as he described the final moments in the life of Matthew Dumas.

Mateychuk was the first officer to chase Dumas on Jan. 31, 2005. He said he noticed the young aboriginal man, who seemed to match the description of one of several suspects sought by police in a home invasion earlier in the day.

Mateychuk said he saw Dumas had a screwdriver with "a nice chrome finish" with him. He tried to use pepper spray on Dumas, he said, but the spray blew back into his eyes.

He then saw other police officers ahead of Dumas and called out to them, "He's got something — a blade, a weapon."

Mateychuk was behind Dumas at the time and said he was out of breath.  He heard a barrage of commands from police to Dumas to drop the weapon.

He was waiting for Dumas to lie down and put his hands up, he said, and was shocked when he saw Dumas walk up to Const. Dennis Gburek.

Dumas raised his left arm, Mateychuk said, and Gburek fired two shots.

Dumas's sister, Jessica Dumas, had been expected to speak to the media before the inquest proceedings began on Thursday — however, when she arrived, she said she wasn't able to do so at this time.

Eyewitness accounts vary

Witnesses at the inquest, which began Monday and is expected to last about two weeks, have given widely varying reports about the events of Jan. 31, 2005, when Dumas, 18, was shot and killed by police.

Their testimony has raised more questions than it has answered. Was Dumas, who police believed was a suspect in a home invasion, shot once or twice? Was he pepper-sprayed three times, or not at all?  Did he lunge at an officer with a screwdriver, or did he raise his hand to wipe his eyes?

Inquest lawyer Robert Tapper says it should come as no surprise that there have been almost as many versions of events as there have been witnesses. All are honest people, he said, and their different recollections are a reflection of the traumatic nature of the event.

The pathologist who performed the autopsy testifies tomorrow, along with an RCMP expert in the use of force.

Inquest counsel Robert Tapper now expects the proceedings to wrap up on Monday, about a week earlier than expected. An inquest is mandatory in Manitoba whenever someone dies in police custody.

An internal review of the shooting cleared the officer involved of any wrongdoing.

A review by Calgary police concluded the internal investigation of the shooting was open, transparent and thorough, and a later review by the Ontario Crown attorney's office confirmed the Calgary findings.