'I was a good parent': Mother whose son died in police chase reacts to inquest recommendations
The mother of a man who died in a police chase two years ago said she is still searching for closure.
Austin Eaglechief, 22, died after the stolen truck he was driving crashed with another vehicle at Airport Drive and Circle Drive in June 19, 2017.
"I lost my son to a gang. I was a good parent," Agatha Eaglechief told reporters outside Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon.
Thursday marked the end of the four-day inquest into Eaglechief’s death. The purpose of an inquest is to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
"It’s a step in the right direction," Eaglechief’s mother said about the recommendations.
Following 14 witness testimonies, the jury made four recommendations — all directed to the Saskatoon Police Service. The recommendations include suggestions in combating large, modified vehicles. The stolen truck was equipped with a lift kit and had oversized tires.
Recommendation 1: Review policy for high-risk traffic stops, especially regarding large vehicles
The jury’s first recommendation related to police’s attempt to stop the stolen truck minutes before the deadly crash. The attempt was unsuccessful. The stolen truck rammed a police vehicle, an officer was injured, another officer fired shots and the truck sped off.
Recommendation 2: Officers get access to adequate equipment and vehicles for high-risk stops, including advanced stop sticks and push-bar police vehicles
Recommendation 3: Have a heavy-duty tactical vehicle, with qualified driver readily available
During the attempt to stop the stolen truck, a sergeant was at police headquarters requesting a vehicle with a push-bar installed on the bumper so he could better take on the stolen truck.
The jury recommended officers readily have push-bar vehicles, rather than having to make a request. Police told CTV News only eight of 159 vehicles have push-bars. It costs $1,200 to purchase and install a push-bar on a cruiser.
An officer testified stop sticks aren’t effective on large tires such as the stolen truck’s. The jury recommended police get access to advanced stop sticks, remote disabling or other available technology to stop a large stolen vehicle.
Recommendation 4: Have the police plane available 24/7
The inquest heard the Air Support Unit is only available for certain shifts, as there is not always a pilot and camera operator. The police plane was available during the police chase on June 19, 2017, but wasn’t available the day before when officers spotted the stolen truck. Jurors suggested the police plane always be available for officers.
Police are not required to implement the recommendations. The Eaglechief family lawyer said she’d like that to change in the inquest process, and have some recommendations be mandatory.