Days after the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP) announced there would be no charges laid against the Sûreté du Québec police officer who shot and killed a 17-year-old in the Eastern Townships last year, a DPCP prosecutor met with the victim’s family Monday to explain the decision.
Still, Riley Fairholm’s parents say they are left with more questions than answers.
“The whole thing was just handled wrong from the get-go,” said Fairholm’s mother, Tracy Wing.
“I can’t believe that in his mind he really thought that the cops would shoot him to kill him.”
More than 15 months after their son was shot in the head by police, Fairholm’s parents are outraged over the lack of information and help they’ve received since the incident.
According to the DPCP, the investigation led by Quebec’s police watchdog (BEI) reveals the events happened as follows:
On the night of July 25, 2018, Police received a 911 call at 1:20 a.m. reporting an armed man walking towards Cowansville on Chemin Knowlton in Lac-Brome. Six officers in three patrol cars were dispatched and located Fairholm at 1:43 a.m in the parking lot of a disaffected restaurant at the intersection of Chemin Knowlton and Victoria Street.
Police confirmed Fairholm was armed with a pistol. It was later revealed to be an air gun.
An officer began negotiating with the teen over a speakerphone. The officer asked Fairholm to drop his weapon and told him everything would be all right if he dropped it.
Fairholm did not obey police orders and was waving the pistol in the air and in the direction of police, seemingly in distress.
At 1:44 p.m., an officer, barricaded behind a patrol car, fired a shot towards Fairholm, hitting him in the head.
In a statement, the DPCP explained that the evidence gathered by the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) did not reveal that the SQ officers in question committed an offence and therefore no criminal charges would be laid.
The statement also revealed that police attempted to briefly negotiate with Fairholm in English and that Fairholm said he had been planning his actions for five years. The investigation also showed that it was Fairholm himself that called 911.
The DPCP says it can only conclude that he wanted the police to be present.
“It hurts me to hear that but I don’t think that’s what he wanted,” said Wing. “I don’t think he wanted to go, he wanted help.”
What surprised Fairholm’s parents the most was the fact that it took only one minute from the time police arrived at the scene to the moment their son was shot.
They wish officers had taken more time to try to talk him down. Fairholm was clearly in crisis, they said, and had previously been diagnosed with depression.
“They took 60 seconds,” deplored Wing. “They don’t know that Riley could have dropped the gun. They didn’t give him that opportunity.”
Fairholm’s father is hoping the coroner’s report and police ethics investigation will someday provide more answers. In the meantime, he’s seeking information about the only officer who shot his son and wonders why none of the others had even drawn their weapons, according to what he was told.
“I have concerns that there’s some problem with that particular officer. Maybe he or she was a newbie?” said Larry Fairholm.
“We don’t have the right to know that. The Crown prosecutor says that’s irrelevant.”