Mother of man shot by P.E.I. police frustrated by lack of information

Jeremy Stephens is seen in this undated handout photo.
Jeremy Stephens is seen in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Gilda Stephens

The mother of a Prince Edward Island man who died after being shot by police says she’s upset about delays in receiving basic information about the status of the case and his autopsy.

Gilda Stephens says in a letter sent by her lawyer that she’s looking for answers on the probes into police actions on May 27, when her 32-year-old son, Jeremy Stephens, was shot during an attempted arrest in Summerside, P.E.I.

The chief of police in Summerside has declined all comment on the facts of the incident, referring the matter to the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team – which is investigating the case.

Media outlets reported on a court hearing earlier this week in which evidence was presented that police located Stephens and three other men after a robbery at a motel, and that Stephens was shot during his arrest at a nearby residence.

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However, Gilda Stephens has issued statements through her lawyer, Julie Kirkpatrick, saying many questions remain unanswered.

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In June, Kirkpatrick issued a statement saying the family believes police had a limited number of stun guns available to them, and that Jeremy Stephens was handcuffed after being shot and was then placed in a police cruiser.

Another statement, issued on Monday, says the mother wants to know more about the “troubling fact that the Summerside Police Force executed search warrants at the scene following Jeremy’s death,” rather than calling in another police force to secure the scene.

Kirkpatrick says her client has received little information from Office of the Chief Coroner on how her son died, and is continuing to call for an inquest by the coroner’s office into her son’s death.

She said the mother also hasn’t received a telephone call from the coroner’s office updating her on the autopsy.

“It’s taken a long time and she (the mother) doesn’t see why she shouldn’t have access to the information that exists,” said Kirkpatrick during a telephone interview.

“We know it takes time. … But the family is left hanging with questions and rumours and that’s difficult for a grieving family to deal with and it seems unnecessary.”

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Felix Cacchione, the director of the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team, which looks into incidents arising from police actions, said in an interview that the officer in charge of the case left for another position, and a new investigator has yet to fully brief him on the file.

He said it’s possible that the officer will be in touch with the family’s lawyer, but there are limits on what can be said in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation.

“We can’t speak about some evidence that is not complete yet and risk that it either is misinterpreted or … affects some other aspect of the investigation,” he said.

“The jeopardy to an investigation by disclosing information before the investigation is completed is large.”

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Cacchione said he was able to confirm that Stephens was handcuffed after being shot and that he was transported to hospital in a police car. He also said his recollection of the investigation is that there was a power outage in the building at the time of the arrest.

Kirkpatrick argues that it is unusual for Summerside police to have carried on their investigation of the alleged robbery at the scene without having another police force present, given the shooting of Stephens.

“It’s to make sure there’s no questions about the integrity of the investigation (of the shooting of Stephens),” she said.

In the June letter to the public, Gilda Stephens had said her son had addiction issues and was well known to police, and she could not imagine what circumstances would lead to him being shot repeatedly by the police.