Police experts tell inquest Rodney Levi shooting justified, but lessons to be learned

Click to play video: 'Coroner’s inquest in Rodney Levi’s death hears testimony RCMP acted according to policy'
Coroner’s inquest in Rodney Levi’s death hears testimony RCMP acted according to policy
The coroner’s inquest looking into Rodney Levi’s death heard testimony Wednesday that RCMP acted according to policy, and that fatally shooting him was justified given the circumstances. However, another use-of-force expert testified there are several things that could been done differently to try and avoid the eventual outcome. Callum Smith has more – Oct 6, 2021

The coroner’s inquest looking into the death of Rodney Levi heard Wednesday from two senior RCMP officers and an officer from Manitoba, with testimony surrounding use-of-force and police training.

Sgt. Kelly Keith of the Ste. Anne Police Department in Manitoba and a use-of-force trainer, highlighted several things that were done well by the officers, as well as several things that could’ve been done differently on the evening of June 12, 2020 when Levi was shot and killed.

Keith said at the time of the shooting, there were no alternatives other than using a firearm due to the potential threat that was posed.

At the same time, he made recommendations to help ensure a better outcome in similar calls moving forward.

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He said officers should have cleared people from the Boom Road, N.B. home, and an officer shouldn’t have gotten closer to Levi to “get a better look,” Keith testified.

Keith did say some good practices were applied, including the fact the first responding officer turned off his sirens before arriving on scene and identified himself to Levi on a first-name basis, rather than police rank.

He made several recommendations moving forward, including having a crisis counsellor available by phone to offer real-time support to officers on the scene, as well as the need for more de-escalation training.

More practical training in crisis intervention and corrective suggestions would be beneficial, he said.

Staff Sgt. Leonard McCoshen, with the RCMP in Alberta, testified earlier in the day the shooting was reasonable, necessary and consistent with RCMP training.

He has also sat through the duration of the inquest.

Click to play video: 'Inquest into death of Rodney Levi told more addiction and health services needed'
Inquest into death of Rodney Levi told more addiction and health services needed

During his testimony Wednesday, McCoshen said officers are to use as much force as necessary, not the least.

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“It is my opinion, that during the final seconds of the incident,” he said, “Mr. Rodney Levi presented a real threat of grievous bodily harm or death” to people at the scene, including the officers.

“Risk assessment is continuous and must evolve as the situation changes,” he told the inquest.

McCoshen said he reviewed the officers’ actions based on a report by Quebec’s police watchdog, Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, as well as notes from the responding officers and RCMP protocols.

Police were called to the home of a pastor, who Levi was visiting, on June 12, 2020.

Mounties say they were responding to an “unwanted person” call.

The inquest has been told a taser was used three times, but did not stop Levi.

Levi had two kitchen knives in his hands and was moving closer towards an officer when RCMP Const. Scott Hait shot him from three to five feet away, Hait told the inquest Monday.

The inquest was told one of the officers was on scene for nearly seven minutes, and the other for more than 11 minutes, prior to shots being fired.

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They tried to negotiate with Levi to drop the knives, but he didn’t.

Earlier in the day, RCMP Sgt. Mike Beauchamp, in charge of tactical training in New Brunswick, told the inquest de-esclation training is a three-hour online course.

McCoshen, meanwhile, agreed with the coroner’s suggestion that more practical simulation would be beneficial.

“Scenario-based, other than reality, is the best training you can have,” McCoshen said.

He also said pairing officers up, especially those who are new officers, would be beneficial, but the cost to taxpayers would be high.

A coroner’s inquest doesn’t assign blame or legal responsibility.

Testimony concluded Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday, the five-person jury will make recommendations to help prevent similar deaths in the future.

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