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Chantel Moore inquest: Jury rules death was a homicide


An independent group should review the use of force policy that guides New Brunswick police to ensure it is concise and understood by all officers in the province, a coroner’s jury recommended Thursday.

The jury of three women and two men has been assigned to consider the death of Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman shot dead by a police officer in northern New Brunswick in 2020 during a wellness check . Jurors ruled his death a homicide, after four days of testimony during the inquest which began on Monday.

Earlier Thursday, Chris Butler, a Canadian police expert and the latest witness in the inquest, said the officer who shot Moore was undergoing police training. Butler said Constable. Jeremy Son had to use lethal force when Moore walked towards him holding a knife.

Moore, Butler told the jury, was only five or seven feet from Son on the balcony outside his apartment.

“Officer Son was at risk of serious injury or death the moment he started shooting,” he said.

Moore was a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in British Columbia and had moved to New Brunswick to be closer to her family shortly before she was killed. Investigators from Quebec police watchdog the Bureau of Independent Investigations concluded last year that the shooting occurred after Moore approached the officer with a knife in his hand.

Jonathan Brunet, a former boyfriend of Moore, told the inquest earlier this week that he called police at 2:06 a.m. on June 4, 2020 to request a health check after receiving text messages he thought to have been written by someone who was stalking Moore.

Son arrived on the third-floor balcony outside Moore’s apartment at 2:32 a.m. and saw her sleeping on a couch inside. He knocked on the window and shone a flashlight to show he was in police uniform.

Son told the inquest that Moore appeared to pick up something metallic on his way to the door. He testified that when she emerged outside she had a knife in her hand pointed upwards and an angry expression on her face. Son said Moore did not respond to his requests to drop the knife and shot him four times in quick succession.

“Officer Son’s use of lethal force in this situation was consistent with police training and practice,” Butler said. He said Son left himself with no way out by backing onto the balcony, but said it would only be speculation to suggest the outcome would have been different had the officer stood on the stairs instead.

Butler said the ballistic vest Son was wearing could be easily pierced by knives.

Son told the inquest he demanded in French that Moore drop the knife. Butler said that with such limited time and without knowing if Moore was bilingual, the officer should have issued his request in both French and English, or shouted, “Police! Stop!

Officers who testified earlier in the week said efforts to stop the bleeding from Moore’s wounds ended when a pulse could not be found. Butler, meanwhile, said efforts to provide medical aid should have continued until paramedics arrived.

Former Edmundston police chief Alain Lang told the inquest Wednesday that his police force had only one working Taser the night Moore was shot. He said the force now numbered five, adding that while all officers had been trained in their use, they were not required to carry Tasers.

Butler said it was “indefensible” that the force had trained officers in the use of Tasers, but had no policy requiring them to wear them. However, he noted that conductive energy weapons such as Tasers aren’t 100% reliable and often aren’t effective if a probe is missing or the target is wearing heavy clothing.

He said Son only had time to use his gun.

The jury recommended that police officers across the province be tested on their understanding of current police force policies and procedures. Jurors also recommended that police take steps to build better relationships with First Nations communities.

Coroner Emily Caissy said she will forward recommendations to various agencies who will have six months to respond. However, the recommendations are not binding.

Martha Martin, Moore’s mother, said it’s been a tough week for her. “You hear all the details leading up to your child’s death,” she said of the inquest. “You hear the details of when their last breath was taken.”

The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick released a statement Thursday saying the inquiry demonstrates the urgent need for an Indigenous-led inquiry into systemic racism. They say the jury’s findings and recommendations do not address the gravity of the tragedy or the systemic issues embedded in the justice system.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 19, 2022.

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