Saskatoon

Shots fired at Brydon Whitstone by officer even as fellow Mountie was nearby: inquest witness

A coroner's inquest in Battleford, Sask., heard more details about what led to the shooting of the 22-year-old following a brief but intense pursuit. On the night he was killed, officers feared Whitstone had a weapon, inquest jurors have heard.

Officers feared for their safety as they responded to weapons call, witness says at coroner's inquest

Brydon Whitstone was shot in North Battleford, Sask., on Oct. 21, 2017, following a brief but intense police chase. The inquest will rule on how Whitstone died and be asked to make recommendations on how to prevent deaths like his. (Albert Whitstone)

The RCMP officer who fatally shot Brydon Whitstone during a tense altercation last year did so even as a fellow officer was attempting to grab Whitstone's head, a coroner's inquest jury heard Wednesday.

The inquest, which began Monday, is learning details about how the officer came to shoot Whitstone in North Battleford, Sask., on Oct. 21, 2017, following a brief but intense police chase in which the vehicle driven by Whitstone collided with two RCMP vehicles.

The jury at the inquest, which is a fact-finding mission and not a criminal trial, will be asked to make recommendations on how to prevent deaths like his.

"I heard a shot as I was about to grab his head," Const. Marco Johnson said on Wednesday, adding that the percussion from the fired weapon "was basically in my face."

Then, seconds later, came a second shot. 

Mark Ebert, one of two lawyers for the Whitstone family, asked if it was in RCMP training for one officer to shoot a suspect even as another officer was close by.

"I can't answer that," said Johnson.

Johnson did not see who fired the weapon that night, but the inquest jury has already heard the shooter was Const. Jerry Abbott, one of many officers who surrounded Whitstone's vehicle the night of Oct. 21. Whitstone was repeatedly asked to surrender, the inquest has heard.

"It's not normal to not listen to the commands that were given," said Johnson. 

Abbott is expected to testify Wednesday afternoon.

Johnson said he reached for Whitstone's head after another officer yelled that Whitstone was reaching for something. Earlier, as Johnson attempted to pull a resistant Whitstone out of the car window by grabbing Whitstone's left arm, he said he saw Whitestone's right hand reach toward his groin in an "exaggerated" fashion. 

Worries about a weapon 

Johnson echoed the testimony of two prior RCMP witnesses in saying that officers feared Whitstone had a weapon that night.

The Battlefords detachment was responding to a 911 call received that night about someone being shot at by people in a white, four-door car.

Another man has subsequently been linked to that shooting complaint, but Whitstone was driving a similar-looking vehicle that night and had refused to stop for an RCMP vehicle, which prompted the RCMP to pursue him during a high-speed chase.

Johnson's vehicle was the second one hit by the vehicle driven by Whitstone during the brief pursuit. After the collision, Johnson said he got out of the car, gun drawn, to pursue Whitstone at the intersection where his car eventually became boxed in by RCMP vehicles.

Johnson said that Whitstone was trying to move the car and he feared the car could injure other officers.

The coroner's inquest is expected to wrap Friday.

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Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

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