Family of Lac-Brome teen fatally shot by police says he battled mental health issues

Riley Fairholm's family says they're grieving the loss of a 17-year-old who, on most days, "was a happy and charming young man" but who struggled with mental illness. They say they're deeply grateful for the kind words and comfort offered by the community in Lac-Brome and beyond.

Family of Riley Fairholm 'deeply grateful' for kind words, comfort offered by Lac-Brome community and beyond

Fairholm's death is being investigated by Quebec's independent investigations bureau, the BEI. (Facebook)

The family of Riley Fairholm, the 17-year-old youth who was fatally shot by provincial police in Lac-Brome, say they are "now in the process of grieving while trying to understand his tragic end."

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Fairholms addressed Riley's battle with mental illness, "which at times made it it difficult for him to not feel isolated, despite the love and care that was ever present."

"As a family, and with his agreement, we sought out the proper forms of professional help and treatment available to him," the statement reads.

"At 17, he was making great progress."

The family says they're deeply grateful for the kind words and comfort offered by the community in Lac-Brome and beyond.

Flowers were placed at the scene of the 17-year-old's death. (Radio-Canada)

"On most days, Riley was a happy and charming young man who marked his community with his generosity, humour, and spirit, as evidenced by the outpouring of support since Wednesday."

Given the investigation into the teen's death, the family has asked for privacy to give them "the space and time needed to come to terms with this tragedy."

"Riley will be deeply missed."

Teen shot early Wednesday

Riley's death is being investigated by Quebec's independent investigations bureau, the BEI, which is called in to investigate any incident in the province involving police in which someone is hurt or killed or where police use their weapon.

Police received a call around 1:20 a.m. Wednesday about a young man who was walking around armed with a gun.

A statement released by the BEI around 5 a.m. said police tried to intervene but the youth became "threatening," and police opened fire, killing the teen.

The BEI said it is not naming the youth, at least until the coroner's report is released, but CBC News has independently verified Fairholm's identity.

'Our heart is in pieces'

The teen's death is especially difficult because everyone in the town knows each other, Lac-Brome Mayor Richard Burcombe told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Thursday morning.

"We're not a metropolitan area. We're a [close-knit] community … and a small population, so when something happens like this it touches everybody in the community, because everybody knows everybody," Burcombe said.

Burcombe said he knew Fairholm because he worked as a cashier at a local IGA grocery store in the summer.

He said he was "very gentle, very kind [and] very polite."

Richard Burcombe said the teen's death is especially difficult because everyone knows each other in the small town. (CBC)

Local resident Jessica Brown said Fairholm was extremely friendly and went "above and beyond" at his job.

He was friends with her son and attended his birthday party a few weeks ago, Brown told CBC News.

"Honestly, our heart is in pieces for the family. We know the family; it's terrible."

Resources are available, mayor says

Burcombe said resources are available for people who may be struggling or need support.

On Wednesday, a CLSC nurse was made available to youth attending a local summer camp, as well as to the camp counsellors, in case they wanted someone to talk to after Fairholm's death.

"The availability is there," he said.

Burcombe said the community is waiting for the results of the BEI's investigation to know more about what happened.


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With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak and CBC reporters Lauren McCallum and Sarah Leavitt