The father of Alvin Wright still has many unanswered questions after the Coroner’s Jury Inquest into the police shooting death of his 22-year-old son concluded with seven strong recommendations to the RCMP on how to prevent future deaths.
Al Wright first heard the recommendations from the four-day-long inquest late Thursday night. The jury deliberated on the recommendations for four hours.
“The recommendations are helpful if the RCMP take them seriously,” said Wright.
The police shooting death took place in August 2010 when Langley RCMP Sgt. Don Davidson came into Alvin Wright’s bedroom to check on him after his girlfirend had called 911 earlier in a domestic dispute.
Davidson fired a single shot into Wright’s abdomen after Wright advanced towards him carrying a knife in his hand, Davidson testified.
Davidson told the jury he had no other option but to shoot Wright. The young man’s dying words were, “I wasn’t going to stab you dude.” Wright died of massive internal bleeding from the bullet.
Supt. Ray Bernoties, officer in charge of the B.C. RCMP’s communications, said he is currently reviewing the recommendations and will reply to the Coroner in writing. He wouldn’t say how long it would take to respond to the coroner, but less than a year.
When asked if that letter would be made public, he said it was up to the Coroner, not him. It’s also not clear if the B.C. RCMP’s response to the Coroner’s jury recommendations will be given to Langley RCMP Supt. Derek Cooke.
Both Davidson and Langley Supt. Derek Cooke testified at the inquest that the shooting was justified and necessary.
Cooke said with a surface look, maybe a Taser could have been the better choice, but there wasn’t one at that scene.
Davidson said he felt vindicated by giving his testimony about what took place that night and he would do the exact same thing again, given the same circumstances.
But the jury didn’t agree.
They made seven recommendations for the RCMP to consider to prevent future police shooting deaths. These recommendations include better communication between officers who attend scenes, a policy to announce themselves as “police” when entering a home or room, have better identification on their clothing and better communication with the complainants and suspects.
“These recommendations show that the jury looked with skepticism at the claims of the shooter and senior management at Langley RCMP that there was nothing to change in relation to this incident, and that this incident was unavoidable,” said Eby, lawyer for Wright’s father.
“This was entirely avoidable had the officers followed policy, or at the very least announced their presence loudly, to avoid surprising Alvin in his bedroom that evening. That they did neither and Alvin is now dead is a tragedy.”
Wright took the stand on Thursday, showing pictures of his son, describing a young father who was maturing as a man, who had no criminal history, and was a productive member of society.
He told the jury that he believes the shooting should have been handled in a court of law. He said life has been a “living hell” since his son’s death. He said Alvin’s mother is so “completely devastated” by her son’s death she couldn’t bring herself to come to any of the proceedings.
Al Wright believes Crown counsel should be looking at this case.
“At the Inquest we heard that the weapons my son was supposed to be holding had likely been moved. We heard that the bullet casing had been moved. We heard that the closet door that was kicked off had been moved, and the bullet direction through my son’s body is completely at odds with the story of the police officer who shot him,” said Wright, through a press release put out by his lawyer David Eby.
In the inquest, no police officer could recall moving the knife and hatchet, which sat neatly beside each other in the closet. The emergency responders all testified that they had not needed to remove them to work on Alvin. The bullet casing was standing on top of a TV set in the closet.
In testimony from the Vancouver Police investigation it was learned that fingerprints and DNA were requested from the knife, which Alvin has in his hand at the time Sgt. Don Davidson shot him. But no fingerprints were ever taken because the lab technician taking DNA samples from that weapon suffered a brain aneurism and nobody followed up after that.
Wright wants to know what happened that evening, and why the scene was so altered.
“Nobody admitted moving anything, and no explanation for the bullet travelling from left to right instead of front to back was given. We have so many unanswered questions, including whether my son was even holding those weapons when he was shot, given that the DNA testing and the finger print testing produced no results and this was so out of character for a boy with no criminal record.”