WATCH: A surprise witness took the stand at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Rhett Mutch, contradicting police testimony about what happened. Tess van Straaten reports.
Nick Eason says he felt compelled to come forward after reading media coverage about the coroner’s inquest into the death of a 20-year-old Victoria man.
“I saw it and I was like no, that’s not what happened,” Eason told CHEK News. “I had to come and tell my side of the story.”
Eason was the only other person inside the Dallas Road duplex when Rhett Mutch was shot and killed by Victoria Police two-and-half-years-ago and he says he heard everything though the duplex wall.
“They didn’t even know I was in the house —and they just thought it was one house,” Eason said.
Rhett’s mother Marney Mutch says she called Victoria Police, like she’d done numerous times before, to try and get help for her son who’d gone months without getting court-ordered counselling.
But within minutes of heavily armed officers arriving, Rhett was dead.
Police officers testified Rhett was unresponsive, but Eason says that’s not true.
“I heard Rhett tell the police officers to get out of his house, to leave him alone,” Eason told court. ” He said, ‘why are you here? I didn’t do anything wrong’ and police officers kept yelling at him saying, get down, drop the knife!”
Eason says the officer tasked with talking to Rhett kept yelling at him and used a harsh tone, completely contradicting police testimony that the officer was calm and tried to deescalate the situation.
“You could tell it was loud, brute force,” he said.
“He was yelling ‘just get on the ground’ and (using) hard-hitting words, not ‘hey, how’s it going? Do you need help today?’ There were no negotiating skills and tactics involved.”
The officer who killed Rhett, a well-trained member of the Emergency Response Team, admitted he was about to switch out that officer with a trained negotiator who was on scene but he says Rhett ran at them with a knife before he had a chance. However, Eason said it never should have come to that.
“Why did they go and use brute force right away?” Eason asked outside the Victoria Courthouse “He needed help — it was obvious he needed help that day and they didn’t give it to him.”
Eason also says his final statement to the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which cleared the officers, wasn’t correct.
The statement read to him in court says he didn’t hear anything before the gunshots but Eason says he never would have said that.
Inquest lawyers say so many issues have been raised at the week-long hearing, they plan to call Victoria Police A/Chief Del Manak to the stand Friday as the inquest wraps up.