RCMP shooting was death by suicide: jury

A coroner's jury in Saskatchewan says a man shot to death by RCMP officers responding to a domestic dispute was a form of suicide.

A coroner's jury in Saskatchewan says the shooting death of a man by RCMP officers responding to a domestic dispute was a form of suicide.

The jury's conclusion came Friday, after five days of hearing evidence about what happened June 14, 2008, on the White Bear First Nation, southeast of Regina.

Chase McKay, 21, had been drinking and arguing with his common law wife. At one point he threatened to harm himself.

When police arrived, McKay had already left his home with a knife. According to testimony at the inquest, two officers caught up to him about 200 metres to the east.

RCMP Const. Glenn Walter told the inquest that his partner, Const. Christ Hanson, repeatedly ordered McKay to drop the knife.

McKay failed to comply and started moving forward. At that point, officer Hanson fired his gun twice.

McKay was hit in the heart and abdomen and died instantly.

The jury's findings said McKay died of the gunshot wounds, but the jury added that it was a suicide, with alcohol a contributing factor. It did not elaborate on those findings.

The jury made four recommendations, including that domestic disputes be assessed by police to determine whether an intervention is necessary, and that police should call on a mental health adviser in some domestic disputes.

The jury also said officers should have Taser stun guns, or what police call conducted energy weapons, on hand.

And it said all RCMP detachments should have a canine unit available to members and that a police dog should be used for all domestic disturbance calls.

Findings criticized

Some observers at the inquest reacted harshly to the findings, particularly the conclusion that McKay's death was a type of suicide.

Melanie Fisher, a Regina woman who lost a family member in an unrelated police shooting, said the jury should not have blamed McKay for being shot.

"We are told over and over again that an inquest is 'where, when, why.' It's not to place blame," Fisher told CBC News on Friday. "We believe we have an inquest here that is laying blame. A young man, Chase McKay, is taking the blame."

A group called the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism levelled the same criticism at the inquest's outcome.

In a news release, the group said the actions of RCMP should be more carefully scrutinized.

"It is about RCMP accepting responsibility for their actions and then moving on to find ways of reducing the risk of similar deaths," Bob Hughes, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a release.

"From our experience, [coroner's] inquests are solely about trying to show that the RCMP had no responsibility for their deadly actions."

McKay left his common law spouse and a daughter. He was also known to some as Chase Standingready. The formal notice of the coroner's inquest called him Kenneth Chase Wilfred Standingready-McKay.

The White Bear First Nation is about 200 kilometres southeast of Regina.