A coroner’s inquest starts this week looking into the death of a Port Hardy man who was shot and killed by police four years ago. The 24 year-old was holding a knife when witnesses say he lunged at police before getting shot. His family, though says he suffered from a mental illness and they’re hoping the inquest may prevent similar deaths in the future.
Norah Hayward, his aunt, will introduce her nephew, James Hayward, as the coroner’s inquest into his death gets underway.
“Who James was. What his family was like. What his history was like. What the last few years of his life was like. He was seeking help for his mental health and addictions,” said Norah Hayward.
James Hayward had been in trouble with the law and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but his aunt says the 24-year-old was looking forward to smoother roads ahead.
“He was a young man on the verge of his life. He wanted to be a dad. He cared about the environment,” she said.
But on July 8th, 2015 his life ended early on Granville Street in Port Hardy.
He had threatened to kill a bystander with his knife but when police told him to drop it he lunged at them and an officer shot him five times.
“James had no drugs or alcohol in his body at the time of his death. None. But he did have some mental health issues,” said his aunt.
The Independent Investigations Office cleared the police officer who shot James Hayward of any wrongdoing but Hayward’s family hopes the inquest’s jurors might make recommendations about how police can better deal with those who are mentally ill to prevent future deaths.
“Where was the pepper spray? Where were the rubber bullets? Where was the taser? They could’ve taken the car and knocked him down. you know there were so many alternatives to what they could’ve done,” said Norah Hayward.
The coroner’s inquest is slated for two weeks and gets underway in Campbell River Tuesday.
His family is hoping the outcome will help prevent other families from losing a loved one far too soon.