Saskatoon

No word yet on Brydon Whitstone coroner's inquest after justice ministry wraps review

It's been nine months since Whitstone was shot dead by an RCMP officer in North Battleford. Whitstone's mother is still seeking answers from the authorities about what prompted the officer to shoot.

Whitstone, 22, was shot dead by an RCMP police officer 9 months ago in North Battleford

Brydon Whitstone, 22, died in North Battleford after being shot by an RCMP officer after leading police on a brief police chase. (Albert Whitstone)

Saskatchewan's coroner's office is now deciding whether to hold an inquest into the death of a man who was fatally shot by an RCMP member nine months ago.

Brydon Whitstone, 22, was fatally wounded after leading RCMP officers in North Battleford on a brief police chase on the night of October 21, 2017.

"The chief coroner is currently reviewing the file with respect to an inquest. There is no timeline for a decision," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said Thursday.

'It's getting hard'

Authorities have released few details about what led the officer to shoot, except to say it was "in response" to Whitstone's actions. Whitstone's family, meanwhile, has been anxiously awaiting answers.

"I sure hope they do," said Dorothy Laboucane, Whitstone's mother, of holding an inquest. "It's getting pretty hard with all this waiting."

One person has offered CBC News a detailed account of the night's events.

The woman who was in the car with Whitstone, Amanda Wahobin, says that Whitstone was not armed that night, but that he acted in a way that might have caused the officer to fire and had previously expressed suicidal thoughts.

"The coroner has recently discussed the autopsy report [which included a toxicology examination] with a member of the [Whitstone] family," said the justice ministry spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the Office of the Chief Coroner.

Inquest not mandatory

The decision about whether to hold an inquest has been held up by other matters.

After the shooting, the RCMP asked the Regina Police Service to investigate. At the same time, the ministry appointed an investigation observer (typically an ex-cop) to make sure Regina police's investigation was thorough.

Regina police wrapped its investigation by March, while the ministry has received and finished its review of the observer's confidential report, paving the way for an inquest.

But such a public proceeding is not guaranteed.

"Inquests are not mandatory into deaths with police involvement," said the justice spokesperson.

Authorities have said little about what prompted an officer to shoot Whitstone while he was in the white car pictured here. Whitstone's family, meanwhile, has grown impatient waiting for answers. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

Under Saskatchewan's Coroner's Act, "Inquests are only mandatory for persons who die in custody, unless they die entirely from natural causes and the death was not preventable."

Both the chief coroner and the ministry can decide to hold an inquest under other circumstances, however.

"Typically, the coroner's service will send out a media release announcing the date and details of the inquest two weeks before it is scheduled to occur," the ministry spokesperson said. 

Sitting down with the family

CBC News has asked the Regina Police Service whether it has shared any findings from its investigation with the Whitstone family.

Ron Piche, the Whitstone family lawyer, thinks the police force should.

"Transparency and full disclosure would suggest they have to sit down with family members, they have to explain the findings after what appears to be a fairly exhaustive investigative process," said Piche.

Whitstone family lawyer Ron Piche says the Regina Police Service, which investigated the shooting, should share its findings with the family. He's also calling for an inquest to shed more light on what happened the night of Whitstone's death. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

He also says an inquest would save the headache of other legal action, including civil litigation against the RCMP.

"[An inquest] provides an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses under oath and get a full picture of what transpired," said Piche.

"That could save years of examination for discovery, pretrial, all those things that come with a Queen's Bench lawsuit."

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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