A coroner’s jury is recommending that transit police in the Vancouver area work more closely with mental health providers following the death of a man who repeatedly stabbed himself and was shot by an officer at a grocery store more than two years ago.
Naverone Woods, 23, was shot by a transit police officer inside a Safeway store in Surrey, on the morning of Dec. 28, 2014.
He was a member of the Gitxsan First Nation and had lived in Terrace and Hazelton in northern British Columbia.
The coroner’s jury heard three days of testimony and made eight recommendations Wednesday to try and prevent similar fatalities in the future.
It recommended that transit police implement a program similar to the RCMP’s Car 67 initiative in Surrey, which allows Mounties and a clinical nurse specializing in mental health to work together in responding to calls involving people suffering emotional problems.
It also recommended that the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service review the circumstances of the young man’s death to identify ways of preventing fatalities in similar circumstances in the future.
As well, it wants TransLink and the Coast Mountain Bus Company operating in the Vancouver area to implement training scenarios for their personnel in dealing with people who have mental health issues or are intoxicated, along with giving transit workers direct access to 911, possibly through a panic button. The inquest heard that Woods appeared agitated and had ran into the closed doors of a bus earlier on the day he died.
The coroner’s inquest began Monday and heard from witnesses inside the Safeway, the officers who were involved in the altercation and medical professionals who worked to revive Woods.
Const. Pamela McKinnon, the officer who shot Woods, testified that she and Sgt. Lee Ezra were driving to Surrey Central transit station when they heard over the police dispatch that a man had jumped over the counter of a nearby convenience store and demanded a knife. A second call said the man had gone inside a Safeway store and was stabbing himself.
The Safeway’s loss-prevention officer told the inquest that Woods went directly to the back of the store and ripped open a package of knives before wandering the aisles stabbing himself between 12 and 20 times.
McKinnon testified that when she and Ezra entered the store, Woods was bleeding profusely from his abdomen, mumbling incoherently and jogging on the spot with knives in both hands.
She said she and Ezra drew their firearms and repeatedly yelled at Woods to drop the knives, but he didn’t appear to hear or react. When Woods suddenly lunged at Ezra, McKinnon said she fired twice, hitting the young man the second time.
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Woods was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:25 a.m. The coroner’s verdict listed the cause of death as “stab and gunshot wounds to the right arm and torso.”
Coroner’s counsel said methamphetamine was found in toxicology results.
The Independent Investigations Office, which investigates serious cases involving police, cleared the officers of any wrongdoing in May 2016.
McKinnon’s lawyer told the inquest the police watchdog’s investigation took so long because ballistics testing was delayed. The jury recommended that ballistic reports in shootings involving police should be completed within 90 days.
The Canadian Press