A coroner’s inquest into the death of a man with mental health issues killed in a confrontation with Vancouver police began on Monday.
Fifty-one-year-old Phuong Na “Tony” Du was shot and killed by police at the intersection of Knight Street and 41st Avenue in Vancouver on Nov. 22, 2014.
Officers had been called to reports of a man in mental distress, brandishing a two-by-four as he walked down the street.
Du had been diagnosed as schizophrenic in his 20s, and on Monday, the inquest heard he had been on antipsychotic medication, which had been increased in the months leading up to his death.
Du’s doctor told the inquest he had a good record of taking his medication, but sometimes did still hear voices.
Du’s psychiatrist, Dr. Soma Ganesan, also gave evidence, and described Du to reporters as a “gentle giant” who could sometimes lose control due to a gambling problem.
“He lost money continuously and he was banned from one casino to another, and he was arguing on the bus on the way home. He would feel regret, he’d feel guilty, but he had no ability to control his behaviour.”
Du’s sister told the inquest that when police were called to his other frequent outbursts, usually by a neighbour, the officer would always calmly talk him down.
Additionally, the inquest was presented with a document from a Richmond hospital showing he had previously had a run-in with police.
WATCH: Cellphone video of police-involved shooting
BC Coroners Service spokesperson Andy Watson says a jury and presiding coroner will hear more evidence in the coming four days.
“At the end of the inquest this week, if there are any recommendations they can make to prevent deaths in similar circumstances, they will do that.”
According to the Independent Investigations Office, police who arrived on scene initially shot Du with several beanbag rounds. It found that Du continued to advance on officers, and got within three to eight feet of police before he was shot with a pistol.
The officer who shot Du said he feared for the life of another officer at the scene.
The Criminal Justice Branch determined there was not enough evidence to pursue charges against the officer involved.
WATCH: No charges in fatal shooting of Tony Du
The Pivot Legal Society says it hopes the inquest encourages police to adopt methods used in other countries to address mental health situations.
“In England, they don’t have guns, most police officers don’t have guns,” said policing policy consultant Camia Weaver.
“They have developed methods where they use shields. They surround and move with the individual until there’s a point at which they can deal effectively with the situation.”
Weaver added that the inquest is an opportunity for Du’s family to get closure in his death.
“They have a great desire to make sure that, as much as they can, this won’t happen to anybody again in the future.”
The inquest is scheduled to continue until Friday.