The police officer who fatally shot a 26-year-old Indigenous woman during a wellness check in Edmundston, N.B., two years ago says he doesn’t know why things escalated so quickly.
Edmundston Police Force Const. Jeremy Son testified Tuesday at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Chantel Moore, who was shot on the balcony outside her apartment on June 4, 2020.
Son arrived to Moore’s home to check on her after her former boyfriend, Jonathan Brunet, called 911 and told police he had received disturbing text messages that appeared to be coming from someone who may have been in Moore’s apartment.
The officer told the coroner’s jury that he arrived on the balcony outside Moore’s third-floor apartment around 2:30 a.m. and could see through the window that she was sleeping on a couch.
Son, who is testifying in French, told jurors that Moore woke after he knocked on the window and shone a light on himself to show her he was a police officer in uniform. Moore appeared to grab something metallic and headed for the door of the apartment, Son told the five-member jury.
Moore exited the apartment pointing a knife in the air and had an angry expression on her face, Son testified. She advanced toward him despite his demands that she drop the knife, he said.
“She kept moving toward me,” Son told the inquest.
He said he kept backing up, adding that once he got to the railing of the balcony, he had no where else to go. Son said he shot Moore four times in quick succession and she fell to the floor of the balcony.
“It happened very quickly,” he said, adding that he couldn’t understand why events escalated so quickly. “There was no reason it happened that way, in my opinion.”
Son said the police force only had one working Taser and on that night, the weapon was with another officer.
Edmundston Police Force policy states that officers can use their firearms “soon as there is risk of serious injury or death ? it’s the service weapon that should be used. We need to stop the threat as soon as possible in order to stop that from happening.”
Earlier Tuesday, Sgt. Marc Bouchard of the Edmundston Police Force told the inquest that he was the second officer to arrive on the scene. He said he saw Son on the balcony and heard the officer telling Moore to drop a knife. He said he then heard four gunshots in rapid succession.
Moore’s mother, Martha Martin, sat near the front of the inquest room and gasped and started crying in reaction to Bouchard’s testimony.
Bouchard said he got out of his car and ran up the stairs as he radioed “shots fired” and “I also asked for an ambulance.”
He said when he got to the balcony he saw Moore lying face down.
Bouchard said Son requested latex gloves and began compressing Moore’s body in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Bouchard said he checked for a pulse.
“There was no pulse at the moment,” he told jurors.
Bouchard said another officer arrived to the scene along with paramedics, who determined Moore was dead. Bouchard said he secured evidence and went to Martin’s home to notify her of her daughter’s death.
He said that in June 2020, the Edmundston Police Force had three Tasers but only one was in service. The force, Bouchard added, is evaluating whether to equip its officers with body cameras.
The shooting was investigated by Quebec’s independent police watchdog _ the Bureau des enquetes independantes. In response to the watchdog’s investigation, New Brunswick’s Public Prosecutions Servces announced in June 2021 that the evidence indicated the officer who shot Moore was responding to a potential lethal threat and his actions were reasonable.
Jurors at the coroner’s inquest will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths under similar circumstances.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.