Shootings inquiry cites litany of failure
Judge Donald Luther has concluded Newfoundland and Labrador's health, social and justice systems tragically failed two men who were killed by police just 51 days apart in 2000.
Norman Reid, 44, was shot to death in his yard in Little Catalina by RCMP Const. John Graham on Aug. 26.
Darryl Power, 23, was killed outside his mother's home in Corner Brook on Oct. 16 by Const. Fred Roache of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
In a report of a judicial inquiry released late Monday afternoon, Luther accepted testimony that Power brought about his own death, calling it "victim precipitated homicide."
Suicide by cop
"This type of death was not the fulfillment of a plan Darryl Power had formulated. Rather the opportunity suddenly presented itself. He was angry, depressed and in utter despair," the report says.
"His troubled and tormented mind put together this impulsive action within a short time, possibly less than five minutes. These short-lived, deliberate and aggressive actions, while armed with three weapons, resulted in this sudden death 'suicide by cop.' "
In the case of Norman Reid, Luther found RCMP officers acted in self-defence. He says Graham shot Reid five times when Reid rushed toward the officer, threatening to kill him with an axe.
"Both men were caught in a downward spiral toward disaster, which the societal safeguards, such as they were, could not or would not prevent," Luther writes.
The judge makes 40 recommendations on how the province can improve the way the justice, health and social services systems handle people who are mentally ill.
Luther says the people of Newfoundland and Labrador should accept nothing less than a full reform of the 32-year-old Mental Health Act. He sets out a timetable to have a new act in place by June 30, 2005.
The former chief judge of the provincial court says the province should create a new mental health division of the court, with three judges ensuring cases are handled in a timely way with sensitivity to mental health needs.
More mental health resources
He recommends more money be put into services including crisis centres and phone lines, mobile health units, mental health advocacy groups and early intervention.
Luther says society also has to change the way it responds to mentally ill people, and he calls on schools to lead the way. He says the public has to refrain from "acts of cruelty and indifference," something he has witnessed in his 29 years on the bench.
The reports concludes police officers have to be better trained, and they need different tools for restraining mentally ill people who are violent.
Luther also says mentally ill people should not be held in police lock-ups unless there are grounds a person has committed a crime that usually would justify being held in jail.
The inquiry began in February 2001. Luther heard from 167 witnesses before hearing final arguments in March of this year.