Saskatoon

Meeting with truck passenger offers some closure for mother of Austin Eaglechief

A known gang member with a violent history was supposed to testify at the inquest into the death of Austin Eaglechief on Wednesday, but after a conversation with the man's mother, it was determined he wouldn't be taking the stand.

Matthew Gamble didn't testify at inquest, but meeting with Eaglechief's mom offered closure

Austin Eaglechief died after a high-speed chase with Saskatoon police on June 19, 2017. (Facebook)

A known gang member with a violent history was supposed to testify at the inquest into the death of Austin Eaglechief on Wednesday, but after a conversation with the man's mother, it was determined he wouldn't be taking the stand.

Eaglechief, 22, was killed during a police chase on June 19, 2017, when the modified Chevrolet Silverado he was driving collided with another truck at the intersection of Airport Drive and Circle Drive. A coroner's inquest into his death is underway at Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench.

During its third day, the inquest was supposed to hear from Matthew Gamble. He was a passenger in the truck on the night that Eaglechief died. Known in Saskatoon's underworld by his nickname "Mowgli," Gamble is a member of the Indian Posse street gang. 

However, earlier in the inquest, Const. Brennan Carter testified Gamble is known as a "rounder," which means he has held membership in more than one gang, including the Terror Squad.

Agatha Eaglechief said she's staying strong for her late son and for her family at home while she attends the coroner's inquest into the death of her son, Austin Eaglechief. The 22-year-old was killed when the stolen truck he was using to flee from police struck another vehicle near Airport Drive. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Gamble's testimony would have provided insight into what was happening in the truck during the pursuit, but after having a conversation with Austin's mother, Agatha, it was determined he wouldn't testify.

"Well, it's very important that the deceased family hears all of the evidence," said Eleanore Sunchild, who is a member of the legal team representing the Eaglechief family.

"Even though Mr. Gamble wasn't willing to testify today, Agatha got the opportunity to meet with him privately, and even though I wasn't there, she tells me that that did provide her with closure as to the questions she wanted to ask him."

A coroner's inquest is a fact-finding mission, not a fault-finding mission and is aimed at bringing forward recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future. The process is also a chance for family members to gain insight into the final moments of their loved one's lives.

Eaglechief died in the black truck on the left. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

"It's really important, extremely important, to a family member like Agatha, a mother who lost her son, to know exactly what happened to him in his final moments," she said.

The final moments before the crash that killed Eaglechief were also discussed at length at the inquest, when Sgt. Barry Low, who compiled the report on the 2017 collision, took the stand Wednesday.

He testified that the stolen Chevrolet Silverado that Eaglechief was driving reached speeds of 162 km/h prior to the crash. Low said while Eaglechief did brake before the collision, he was still travelling at a high rate of speed when the truck crashed with a Toyota Tundra. 

Eleanore Sunchild, who is part of the legal team representing the Eaglechief family at a coroner's inquest in Saskatoon, said a meeting between truck passenger Matthew Gamble and Agatha Eaglechief did offer her client some closure. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC )

Low says while the speed of the truck dropped from 162 km/h to 107 km/h in the 2.5 seconds before the crash, there was no evidence of full-on braking on scene. He also testified the fact the seatbelts were locked around the seats is a "clear indicator" they were not being worn at the time. 

Pathologist Shaun Ladham testified that Eaglechief died within seconds of the collision from multiple fractures to his skull. 

He described the injuries as lethal and non-survivable.

Sunchild said so far, communication between officers and ensuring police have equipment capable of physically matching a larger vehicle are some of the potential issues she's identified around police response during the inquest.

"I think that the jury caught on to some of those issues, as they were actively asking questions," she said.

The inquest into Eaglechief's death is set to conclude Thursday.