Wednesday was the third day of the inquest into the death of Steven Rigby. Rigby was killed in a police-involved shooting on the outskirts of Saskatoon in December 2018.
The inquest heard from Cons. Chris Rhodes, a crisis negotiator with Saskatoon Police Service.
On the day of the incident, Rigby was on the phone with another officer at Saskatoon police headquarters until Rhodes arrived, he said.
Rigby was in his car at the time. His family said Rigby had been threatening suicide that night and was armed with a gun.
Rhodes said when he took over the call, Rigby sounded intoxicated and said he’d taken valium and drank. Rhodes said he believed Rigby was so intoxicated that he was going to pass out.
Over the phone, Rigby said he wanted to get shot, but not hurt police.
Rigby ended up getting out of his vehicle, shooting his gun into the air and fell over before getting up, according to video footage of the incident from police vehicles.
Over several minutes the video shows him staggering, falling and getting back up several times.
“I was quite surprised he was able to get out of the vehicle,” Rhodes said, adding he was surprised he could manipulate a firearm as well.
“Those were not the cues I was (getting) in the conversation.”
Nathan Lynchuk was a constable with Saskatoon police at the time, and was on scene. He testified Rigby starting to walk toward police, and looked like he was aiming his gun at officers.
Lynchuk and several others fired their weapons.
Rigby was hit three times and died of blood loss at Royal University Hospital.
Testimony from friends of Rigby recount a history of mental health issues. One childhood friend said friends were concerned about Rigby mixing alcohol and with prescription pills.
In 2018 Rigby made three suicide attempts, according to testimony from close friend and colleague Shelly Miller earlier in the inquest.
Dr. Oleg Nerutsak completed a psychiatric assessment of Rigby on Aug. 31, 2018. This was five months before the encounter with police.
The day prior, Rigby was brought to the Battlefords Mental Health Centre at Battlefords Union Hospital in North Battleford by RCMP after a suicide attempt, and discharged with prescription pills under the assurance someone would monitor his intake.
He had made another suicide attempt by taking those pills when Nerutsak assessed him, he said.
He said Rigby acknowledged his suicide attempts, but he said he was fine; however, with concerns from Rigby’s family, Nerutsak committed Rigby to the mental health centre involuntarily.
Nerutsak noted Rigby was not happy about being committed.
Rigby stayed there for several days and detoxed from alcohol. Nerutsak said Rigby’s mood improved as the days went on, and he was discharged in early September.
“There was no evidence of any major depressive disorder or any mental health disorders,” he said. “He denied any suicidal thoughts.”
In an interview with Global News earlier this week, Rigby’s mother said her son was struggling with suicidal thoughts.
“He was always telling me how he wasn’t getting the attention he felt he deserved,” Carey Rigby-Wilcox said on Monday.
Rigby was discharged with a diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal, severe alcohol use disorder, adjustment disorder, unspecified personality disorder and a personal history of self-harm, according to Nerutsak.
He said Rigby was advised to seek counselling or other addictions services programming, but there was no follow-up by psychiatry.
Nerutsak said he did not believe at the time Rigby was suffering from depression; one factor he said was that Rigby’s mood improved over several days as he detoxed from alcohol, something he said would not happen if he were suffering from depression.
The inquest was told police are interacting more with people experiencing mental health issues.
The crisis negotiator said training officers to recognize the signs of mental health crisis would help.
The inquest continues the rest of the week.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, please reach out. Resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.