The Ministry of Justice has announced a coroner’s inquest to investigate the July shooting of a 27-year-old man by Prince Albert police.
A hearing date has yet to be scheduled. The inquest will examine all evidence in the case and offer possible recommendations.
“Once the coroner has determined … there’s going to be an inquest in this particular matter, a news release will be sent out and then the news release will contain all the details on when it’s going to be held,” Ministry of Justice spokesperson Linsay Rabyj said.
The shooting occurred on July 9 after police responded to a report of a domestic dispute in an east side housing complex.
The deceased was reported by police to have confronted the two responding officers with a knife. Both officers then discharged their firearms in response.
Paramedics later transported the wounded man to the Victoria Hospital, where medical staff pronounced him dead.
Chief coroner Kent Stewart noted that while inquests shares many similarities with trials, there is at least one important distinction.
“It’s not our job to find fault or blame,” Stewart said. “It’s just simply to look at the facts, make the findings or the determinations and if they think there is some way of preventing it, then putting forward recommendations.
“The inquest itself is not designed to look at laying blame, and that’s an important consideration.”
Delays prior to the inquest are not uncommon, in part because of the multiple investigations that must be completed first.
Aside from the police investigation and the coroner’s investigation, an independent observer appointed under the Police Act must also look at the investigation results.
While the investigations are independent, there is a degree of interconnectedness. For example, the police investigation is dependent upon receiving an autopsy report, which in the case of the deceased has not yet been completed.
“As far as I know, the province gets everything that we get,” Sgt. Curtis Halcro said. “Everything that we’ve done goes to the overseer from the government.”
The inquest itself is not designed to look at laying blame, and that’s an important consideration. Kent Stewart
Halcro noted that the Prince Albert Police Service is still investigating the shooting incident, but that no additional updates are available at this time.
Once the various investigations are complete, the inquest may begin.
“An inquest itself is like a court proceeding,” Stewart said. “It’s quasi-judicial, and the inquest is held before a jury of six persons.
“They hear all the evidence, and they make specific findings, such as who died, the identity of the deceased, when they died, how they died, the medical cause of death, the manner of death. They answer those specific questions, if they can, based on all the evidence.”
The average coroner’s inquest lasts three to four days, although the precise length generally depends on the number of witnesses.
Following the inquest, the jury can make recommendations on how to prevent similar incidents from re-occurring in the future.
Should they choose to do so, it is the chief coroner’s responsibility to forward the recommendations to their intended audience, which in this case would likely be Prince Albert police.
Stewart preferred not to speculate about the results of an inquest at this early stage.
“We’ve seen a number of in-custody types of deaths and certainly at times, there are recommendations in relation to the nature of services provided and those types of things,” he said.
“But all of these types of situations are very different, so that it’s very difficult to predict what a recommendation will be, if any.”