A coroner’s inquest into the death of a 35-year-old man in 2017 who was shot and killed by police near Qualicum Beach began Tuesday in Nanaimo.
The incident happened along the Inland Island Highway.
The parents of Aaron Prince, the man shot, say they are learning many of the details for the first time but believe his death was preventable.
They also want people to know that Prince, a father and a member of the McLeod First Nation, was loved immensely.
“He was the youngest one in the family. A good worker and hard worker, and no, he liked people,” said his father, Jean-Paul Dumont.
“He was an awesome child, he was a great kid,” said Doris Leclair, his mother.
It was on Oct. 12, 2017, when Prince was in an altercation with police on the Inland Island Highway before he was shot.
Prince had recently separated from his girlfriend. Police took him to Nanaimo Regional Hospital, just a couple of days before his death, for a psychiatric assessment.
On Tuesday Dr. Andrew Digney testified he was the emergency room doctor when he saw Prince, but he doesn’t recall the visit.
According to Digney’s notes, while Prince tested positive for cocaine in his body, Digney determined he was not suicidal and no longer psychotic. The doctor released Prince, who didn’t want to be there, three hours later.
Fast-forward to the night before.
Dave Poole and his partner Linda Shaw testified they let Prince stay at their house near Qualicum Beach for the night. Poole had picked up Prince from another of his friends in Nanaimo.
After arriving around midnight and getting set up in a room upstairs, Prince burst into the couple’s bedroom at two points in the early morning, saying he did not feel well and wanted to go to the hospital.
Both times, the couple urged him to go to sleep and wait until the morning to go to the hospital.
A third time around 4 a.m., Poole testified his partner woke him up, saying Prince was just outside their bedroom. Poole went out of the room, and he saw Prince stab himself in the chest with a knife.
Poole said Prince was now saying things unattached to reality.
Realizing this time it was an emergency, he physically had to get Prince into the car as he was no longer as keen to go. Poole called 911 en route to the hospital, and he made plans with the dispatcher to meet an ambulance on the way.
The friend stopped on the highway, and the dispatcher had called police, likely because Prince potentially had a knife.
Then Prince got out of the car and started running into traffic. The friend tried to get him off the road. Police arrived and tried to subdue Prince with various force options before they shot him.
His parents believe there could’ve been a different outcome.
“It was totally preventable, like someone crying out for help,” said Leclair.
“Myself, I believe it could’ve been prevented. Knowing my son, he was trying to get attention,” said Dumont.
The four-day inquest will hear from 18 witnesses. Wednesday’s testimony will include the two officers who shot him.
Under the Coroners Act, inquests are mandatory for any deaths that occur while a person was detained by or in the custody of a peace officer.