Coroner’s inquest into 2017 police shooting near Qualicum Beach wraps

Coroner's inquest into 2017 police shooting near Qualicum Beach wraps
Aaron Prince is pictured.

The Coroner’s inquest into the 2017 police shooting and death of 35-year-old Aaron Prince near Qualicum Beach has wrapped up.

On Friday, the jury heard from its final witness, an expert in police use-of-force.

CHEK News obtained the communication played during the inquest between a 911 dispatcher and officers responding to a call that led to police shooting and killing Prince.

“Oceanside members for an assist, EHS with a male who’s stabbed himself in the chest. Inland Island Highway and the Little Qualicum Bridge,” said the dispatcher.

The call came on Oct. 12, 2017. A friend was driving Prince, who was in a psychotic state, to a location on the Inland Island Highway. Prince jumped out of the car and was running on the highway. The friend had helped calm Prince when police arrived. They use the term SOC for Subject of Complaint.

“Just to update it looks like the SOC seems to be calming down and relaxing,” said the 911 dispatcher.

On arrival, the two officers testified Prince was calm, though he was mumbling incoherently while they tried to handcuff him to allow B.C. Ambulance to move in.

The officers testified Prince then suddenly turned and started to fight and was trying to get their service pistols. Both officers shot him.

“Dispatch, the SOC’s been shot. Get EHS in here,” said one of the officers.

Expert testimony

On Friday, Mike Massine, a former police officer of 32 years and a police-use-of-force expert, took the stand.

He said it would absolutely be helpful if a mental health clinician was available to respond to calls with police in a combined team, something that is available in some police detachments, but not usually rural ones.

He also testified it depends on the agency if handcuffs are a requirement to transport a patient and in some cases it depends on the officer’s discretion. Though Massine believes handcuffs aren’t always necessary, he said if they aren’t used, the situation has the potential to escalate.

Both officers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the independent Investigations Office of B.C.

The inquest started Monday and lasted four days.

Late Friday afternoon, the jury came back with the following seven recommendations.

  1. Recommendation that inquests be held in a timely manner/as soon as possible following a death.
  2. Recommendation that improved communication and clarity be established around criteria for restraint use for person at risk for harm to self or others, in order to transport to an appropriate facility.
  3. Recommendation to expand inclusion of a mental health clinician on RCMP mental health calls provincewide.
  4. Recommendation is to encourage increased use of tasers as a non-lethal alternative to other methods or tools for control of a person.
  5. Recommendation for RCMO to receive annual crisis intervention and de-escalation training.
  6. Recommendation is for all physicians in B.C., particularly those in institutional settings, such as emergency rooms, to have enhanced training in sensitivity to, and treatment of, the symptoms of various mental illnesses in patients.
  7. Recommendation is for the 911 call takers to request a caller to stop their vehicle instead of allowing the caller to continue to travel while in distress or in potential harm’s way.
Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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