The scene a day after an RCMP officer fatally shot a man July 8, 2015 in downtown Port Hardy. Black Press file photo

The scene a day after an RCMP officer fatally shot a man July 8, 2015 in downtown Port Hardy. Black Press file photo

Coroner’s inquest into fatal police shooting in Port Hardy begins in Campbell River

James Reginald Butters, 24, killed in 2015 after RCMP responded to call of male uttering threats

A coroner’s inquest into the shooting death of James Reginald Butters by an RCMP officer in Port Hardy began in a Campbell River courtroom Tuesday.

Butters (a.k.a. James Hayward), 24, died on July 8, 2015 following a police-involved shooting after Port Hardy RCMP members responded to a call of a male uttering threats.

RELATED: Port Hardy RCMP fatally shoots man

It was just after 11 a.m. when the Port Hardy RCMP responded to a complaint of a man making threats towards security staff at Port Hardy Secondary School, where a staging area for a wildfire burning throughout the previous week had been set up.

The man, later identified as Butters, was wielding a knife.

According to the Independent Investigation Office’s report, witnesses said after being confronted by the RCMP, Butters moved toward the police with the knife in his hand and was shot to the ground. Other witnesses said Butters then got up and continued toward the police and was shot again and again fell.

Paramedics were then called and Butters was pronounced dead at the scene.

The presiding coroner conducting the hearing is Lyn Blenkinsop and a five-person jury, composed of three women and two men, will hear the evidence and make recommendations at the end of hearing.

Blenkinsop told the jury and the gallery that a coroner’s inquest has three goals:

  • To determine the facts as they relate to a death, specifically the identity of the deceased, how, when, where and by what means the deceased came to his death.
  • To make recommendations, where appropriate and supported by the evidence, that may prevent future loss of life in similar circumstances.
  • As a means for satisfying a community that the circumstances surrounding the death of one of its members will not be overlooked, concealed or ignored.

Participating in the case is David Kwan, a lawyer representing the Attorney-General of Canada and the RCMP.

Inquest counsel John Orr is conducting the proceedings and outlined his overview of the situation.

Orr explained to the jury that there is often a delay between an incident and a coroner’s inquest. In this case, there had been an Independent Investigations Office (IIO) investigation into the actions of the RCMP officers in the incident involved. That investigation looked into whether charges should arise from the police’s actions. A report was issued by the IIO in 2017 clearing the police officer involved of any wrongdoing.

In his overview on Tuesday, Orr explained that James Butters had “a difficult childhood” and had some trouble with law, including a jail sentence. During his incarceration he underwent some counselling and was diagnosed as having some mental health problems that required medication. He was released from prison and returned to the community and made use of mental health services in Port Hardy. As a result, the inquest will hear from a prison psychologist who treated Butters and from a mental health worker involved in providing services to him in Port Hardy.

The testimony began on Tuesday by hearing from Butters’ aunt, Nora Hayward, and then from a friend in Port Hardy, Jessica Hryko.

Nora Hayward was authorized to speak on behalf James’ birth mother and step-mother, both of whom declined to appear as witnesses.

Hayward read from a prepared statement and remembered her nephew fondly.

“My nephew was a shy, gentle young man,” Nora Hayward told the coroner’s inquest. “James wanted to become a dad and became interested in making the world a better place. James was concerned about the health of the planet and tried to keep his (ecological) footprint as small as possible.”

He did however, face challenges in his life resulting in him being sentenced to jail time, where he was diagnosed with a mental illness and prescribed medication to treat it.

On Tuesday, the inquiry was set to hear from a mental health worker in Port Hardy as well as Butters’ probation officer.

On Wednesday, the inquest expects to hear from public witnesses to the incident. The jury will hear from a lot of people who witnessed the event and saw it from different perspectives, Orr said.

“It happened in a very public area, an intersection in Port Hardy on a main road and there were quite a lot of people around in cars and walking on the street that saw this,” Orr said.

There will also be some forensic evidence given and the police officers involved in the shooting are scheduled to testify Thursday.

On Friday, there will be evidence given about the nature of the RCMP officers’ training and what’s called the use of force. An expert witness will be called to talk about that. There will also be some discussion on crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques.

A psychologist from the prison is set to talk to the jury by video conference on Friday.

On Monday, the pathologist who conducted the post mortem on Butters will testify.

“You will find that that’s important evidence for you, being as it will show what injuries he incurred as a result of the shooting,” Orr told the jury.

The IIO will be heard from as the final witnesses on Monday. Then on Tuesday, the jury “will be doing all the work” by deliberating on the evidence they heard.

RELATED: Port Hardy RCMP officer cleared in 2015 fatal shooting

RELATED: Inquest into Port Hardy police shooting moved to Campbell River

With files from Tyson Whitney/North Island Gazette


@AlstrT
editor@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Pxhere)
Mill Bay nurse suspended after using Tensor bandage to trap long-term care patient in room

Susan Malloch voluntarily agreed to a three-day suspension of her certificate of registration

Cullen Ferguson has left the Cowichan Valley Capitals to play with the Aberdeen Wings of the NAHL. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Capitals say goodbye to Ferguson and Richter

The Caps traded another Union College commit away last week

Handwashing is one of the important COVID-19 precautions. (File photo)
Editorial: Time to knuckle down on COVID precautions

It would be foolish to think that we have not had any COVID cases in Cowichan until now

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Abbotsford’s Skully White (left), who donated his kidney in December, has started a campaign to find other recipients and donors. The first candidate is retired police officer Gavin Quon. White owns and operates a hotdog stand, Lullys Food Experience, out of the Abbotsford Canadian Tire parking lot. (Facebook photo)
After donating his kidney, Abbotsford hotdog king starts donor campaign

Skully White donated his kidney to customer Tim Hiscock in December

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

(File)
Man allegedly bites Vancouver cop during arrest for outstanding warrant

The officer was treated in hospital for the bite wounds

(File Photo)
Interior Health says COVID positivity rates in Fernie area actually 10-12%

IH say the rates are not as high as previously claimed by the region’s top doctor

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of B.C. conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Francina Mettes and Thomas Schouten with the 200-page document they submitted in December of 2018. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Dutch man, 94, facing unwanted trip home can stay in B.C. with wife of 45 years

Immigration offices cuts red tape so couple of 45 years can stay together in Victoria area

Most Read