Saskatchewan

Children of man shot dead by Regina police say he was close to turning life around

Two days after their father was killed by a police officer during a hostage situation in Regina, the children of Geoff Morris called for more training for officers, saying their father was in the midst of a mental health breakdown.

Police say they tried to de-escalate before officer fired, family says wrong approach used

Kahaila Morris, 15, and Nakayoh Friday, 12, are mourning the death of their father, after he died in a police shooting. (Matthew Howard/CBC News)

Two days after their father was killed by a police officer during a hostage situation in Regina, the children of Geoff Morris called for more training for officers, saying their father was in the midst of a mental health breakdown.

"I'm so confused and lost," said 15-year-old Kahaila Morris.

She said she can't stop wondering how exactly what led up to her father's death.

"It's kind of killing me inside."

She and her younger brother, 12-year-old Nakayoh Friday, said they are speaking out because they want people to know their father was a good man who didn't deserve to die.

"I want people to know that the people who were supposed to protect us aren't protecting us. They are killing us," Nakayoh said, wiping the tears from under his glasses.

"I don't want other families to go through my pain."

Geoff Morris is pictured here with two of his children. Morris had four biological children, and helped raise six others. (Submitted by the family of Geoff Morris)

Regina Police Services has launched an investigation into the 41-year-old man's death and have said they will not be commenting on the case or Morris's death until that investigation is complete.

Police said officers responded to a disturbance early Saturday morning and found a man, armed with a knife, who had allegedly taken a woman hostage. They said officers tried to de-escalate the situation, but eventually an officer fired a weapon, leading to Morris's death.

Police have said it's the first time in 20 years there has been an officer-involved fatal shooting.

At the time of his death, Morris was facing two separate outstanding charges, one for possession of drugs under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act and one for operating a motor vehicle while being pursued by the police and failing to stop. 

Morris's fiancée posted publicly on Facebook after his death that she was the woman being held hostage and that Morris had plans for suicide. After police arrived, she wrote that he said more than once he didn't want to go with them or go back to jail.

She questioned why police did not use a Taser and said that Morris became angrier each time the negotiator pressured him to trade the knives for a cigarette lighter, leading up to her hearing a "bang" and feeling a splatter of blood as she sat between his legs.

She said she repeatedly questioned police if Morris was OK, after police separated the two.

Geoff Morris is pictured here with his fiancee, who has posted publicly about the events leading up to his death on Saturday morning. (Jasmine Brass/Facebook)

The Saskatchewan Police College, which trains the province's municipal officers, says it's committed to helping train recruits so they're able to respond to mental health issues effectively and safely.

As part of their training, officers are required to take a 12-hour program dedicated to learning about mental health first aid, and also get extra training on mental health legislation, fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, Alzheimer's disease and substance abuse.

Down the 'wrong path'

Morris's children say their father was a constant presence in their lives, ready to bake cookies with them or take them out for a day of fun at the Exhibition.

"He was the whole glue to the family, he kept us holding on to each other. He'd do anything for our happiness," Nakayoh said.

The death of their older sister in 2015 badly affected Morris, Kahaila said, and sunk him into grief and depression.

"He took it the hardest. When he took it the hardest, he kind of just went down the wrong path," Kahaila said. 

However, she said he was trying to turn his life around.

"He could have been at work today. He could have been breathing," she said, adding even if he had ended up in jail, the family could have still held on to him.

"Still it'd be better than our family burying him, planning his funeral, it's better than feeling this pain."

The death of his daughter in 2015 badly affected Morris, according to his children. (Geoff Morris/Facebook)

She believes her father would not have harmed his fiancée, a woman he loved. Morris's fiancee said the incident took four hours from the beginning to end. Police have not confirmed the length of time of their response.  

"My dad would have come to his senses and surrendered, I know he would have," Kahaila said.

About the Author

Janani Whitfield works on CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition. Contact her at janani.whitfield@cbc.ca or on Twitter, @WhitfieldJanani.

with files from Alex Soloducha