UPDATE: In a verdict reached Thursday afternoon (March 4), jurors classified the death of Hudson Brooks as a homicide and made three recommendations: that RCMP “increase training frequency of the Incident Management Intervention Model (IMIM), for the RCMP specifically focused on communications in regard to tactical considerations when it comes to use of force”; that the Independent Investigations Office, after completing investigations, “provide investigative materials and findings to the RCMP or other affected agency for the purpose of developing training solutions”; and, that the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Police Services Division, “review current standards of use, training and consider new technology for Intermediate Force Options including Conducted Energy Weapons.”
(Original story posted earlier today is below)
Hudson Brooks had cocaine and alcohol in his system on the morning of an altercation with police that ended in an officer peppering him with fatal gunfire, a coroner’s inquest heard Wednesday (March 3).
But exactly where he got the cocaine remains unclear – as does where he was and what he did in the 90 minutes prior to his death on July 18, 2015.
“We attempted to determine that question. We could not,” Gene Krecsy, a member of the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO), said in response to a question from David Kwan, counsel representing the interests of the RCMP in the fact-finding proceeding.
“There was an hour-and-a-half of time gap that we could not account for the whereabouts of Mr. Brooks.”
Brooks, 20, died just after 3 a.m. on the morning in question, in the parking lot of the South Surrey RCMP detachment, located in the 1800-block of 152 Street.
Investigation determined that he had been walking westbound on 18 Avenue, towards 152 Street, shortly before the altercation that ended in his death, and that he had damaged at least two vehicles along the way.
Some personal items of Brooks’ were found on the west side of Alderwood Park, in the 15700-block of McBeth Road.
Krecsy said friends of Brooks who were interviewed by the IIO reported that Brooks had left a residence located on the east side of Alderwood Park at around 12:30 a.m., leaving behind a backpack containing items including his passport, shoes and cellphone. He did not use cocaine in their presence, but did have magic mushrooms, the friends told investigators.
“One of the witnesses indicated that Hudson seemed to have a bad reaction to (the mushrooms), and Hudson got up and left… wasn’t in a good mood at that point in time, is the best way I could put it,” Krecsy said.
Cocaine, the inquest heard earlier, is a short-acting drug that gives users an “intense feeling of euphoria.”
“In extreme cases, it can lead to very strong psychosis, including hallucinations… paranoia – sort of a fear that someone’s coming after you,” Dr. Aaron Shapiro, a forensic toxicologist, added, in sharing findings from Brooks’ toxicology report.
Police initially described the July 18 incident as an altercation involving a suicidal male, and the inquest heard earlier this week that 911 reports had detailed a male walking in the middle of the road yelling “kill me, kill me, kill me now, sorry, mom, sorry.”
Const. Elizabeth Cucheran – the officer who fired on Brooks, striking him nine times – told the inquest Tuesday that Brooks “launched himself” at her that morning, when she and another officer came to the aid of a colleague who had issued an urgent appeal for help. Sgt. Stuart Gray testified that he had made that call for assistance as Brooks violently attacked his police SUV, yelling at the officer, “I’m going to kill you.”
The inquest also viewed CCTV footage that showed Cucheran backing away, her gun raised, as Brooks came towards her.
Shapiro said Brooks’ toxicology report showed a 0.13 per cent concentration of ethyl alcohol in his blood; a substance that indicates beer and/or wine consumption. The legal limit, he noted, is 0.08 per cent. An excessive amount can impact a consumer’s emotional state, and lead to loss of control and a staggered gait, as well as a loss of sensation, he said.
The concentration of cocaine in Brooks’ system could not be determined, he said.
And while testing did not identify the hallucinogenic found in magic mushrooms in Brooks’ system, Shapiro disagreed with the report’s determination that the drug was not detected.
“I would change that to inconclusive,” he said, noting the test to look for it was “not done very well.”
“It could’ve been there,” he said.
Shapiro said the effect of magic mushrooms tends to peak two hours after consumption and may last for another four hours after that. He said there “isn’t much” research that suggests their use leads to violent tendency.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Carol Lee also gave evidence Wednesday, sharing details from Brooks’ autopsy and confirming that he died from multiple gunshot wounds. Sgt. Brad Fawcett spoke to police use-of-force training and intervention options, explaining that tools such as pepper spray will not deter someone who isn’t feeling pain; as well, that time and distance are both factors in the effective use of batons and conducted energy weapons.
In stressful situations, it’s common for the latter to miss its target due to jerking of the trigger mechanism, Fawcett said.
Depending on the situation, an officer’s threat-reaction time can be “all over the map,” Fawcett added. And if an officer reaches a point where they choose to use their firearm, “they’ll be pressing the trigger until they see some obvious change in behaviour.”
The inquest, held at the Burnaby Coroner’s Court in Metrotown, is aimed at determining the facts and circumstances surrounding Brooks’ death, and could result in recommendations from the jury to help prevent a similar death in the future.
Wednesday afternoon, presiding coroner Lyn Blenkinsop noted that anyone who believes they have information concerning Brooks’ death that could assist the jurors may call 604-398-6229.
The jurors began deliberations Thursday morning (March 4).
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