Review finds RCMP failed to separate officers after fatal shooting of Whitstone
The Saskatchewan RCMP announced the results of independent review on Dec. 18 following the officer-involved shooting of Brydon Whitstone.
Whitstone, a 22-year-old man from Onion Lake, Sask., was shot and killed following a brief police pursuit in North Battleford, Sask., on Oct. 21, 2017.
Manitoba RCMP examined all the facts surrounding the case to ensure policies and procedures were followed.
The review identified one procedural gap in regards to how North Battleford officers were managed immediately after the shooting. RCMP policy calls for those involved to be separated immediately after a critical incident such as this.
The review determined Cst. Jerry Abbott, who shot Whitstone, was removed and separated as per policy.
However, it found all responding officers did have the opportunity to meet during a debrief at the Battlefords RCMP Detachment between 11:40 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2017, and 2 a.m. CT on Oct. 22, 2017.
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RCMP said the purpose of the debrief was to check in on the well-being of the officers, and ensure they were aware of the emotional and mental health support services available to them.
“We do not believe this had any impact on the investigation into the death of Mr. Whitstone as the evidence in its totality led to the conclusion that our officers acted reasonably and appropriately and in accordance with the Canadian Criminal Code,” read a RCMP statement.
“Policing can be a difficult and demanding profession. At times, it calls for split-second, life-or-death decisions to be made under great duress. It is a heavy burden of responsibility that our officers carry, but it is a responsibility that we train for and that we take seriously.”
The review recommended RCMP members and supervisors be retold of the importance in keeping involved members separated and reminded they’re not to discuss serious incidents.
Saskatchewan RCMP said the recommendation was followed through on when the review was received on Aug. 10.
According to RCMP, they are able make the results of the review public now after advising the Whitstone family of the outcome.
A week-long inquest into the death concluded earlier this month with a six-person jury making one recommendation to RCMP.
The jury suggested police use a Taser or other intervention to immobilize or stun the suspect prior to the use of a gun. The coroner’s jury makes recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
The Saskatchewan RCMP issued a statement Dec. 7 saying they will examine the recommendation.
The other purpose of the inquest was to determine the medical cause and manner of Whitstone’s death.
At the conclusion of the inquest, the jury found Whitstone, of Onion Lake, Sask., died of a gunshot wound, but couldn’t determine by what means. The jury chose “undetermined” over accident, homicide, natural, or suicide.
The RCMP officer who shot Whitstone twice in the chest said he believed Whitstone was reaching for a gun and that’s why he pulled the trigger.
No gun was ever found in Whitstone’s car, but 13 bullets were found in his clothing and another live round was later found in his stomach which he ingested, court heard in Battleford on Dec. 3.
No criminal charges were laid following an independent investigation by Regina Police Service.
-With files from Rebekah Lesko
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