'In my heart of hearts, I feel like he could’ve been here': Delayed inquest into Saskatoon man’s death leaves family waiting for answers
SASKATOON -- On the evening of December 22, 2018, 27-year-old Steven Rigby died after a confrontation with Saskatoon Police.
It’s a death that could have been avoided, his family says.
“I do believe that Steven could’ve been saved if he would’ve received the proper help,” said his mother Carey Rigby-Wilcox.
“I feel that there was a chance for him. In my heart of hearts, I feel like he could’ve been here.”
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Rigby struggled with depression and anxiety in the months leading up to the incident, checking in at the Irene and Les Dubé Centre for Mental Health at RUH in Saskatoon, as well as the Battlefords Union Hospital.
According to a medical report completed at the Dubé centre, he was at acute risk of suicide and had made comments expressing suicidal intent, including provoking police to shoot him.
The document, which Rigby's mother shared with CTV News, is dated Dec 19, 2018 — three days before Rigby's death.
Shortly after the examination, Rigby was discharged from the centre.
When asked about the Rigby's discharge, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it would not comment on a patient's personal health information.
“[The Dubé Centre] knew that he said 'suicide by cop,'” said Rigby-Wilcox.
“Really that should be a flag for all the police to be linked on in his file so that he knew that he’s high-risk … he’s had how many attempts, that he’s been there, so then they may change their process in how they would deal with somebody in their custody.”
Rigby-Wilcox received a letter from the Government of Saskatchewan that stated Chief Coroner Clive Weighill had hoped to have the inquest investigating the details of her son’s death in late 2020, but due to the pandemic, “may be delayed until early 2021.”
She says not knowing the details surrounding her son’s death is like an “open wound that won’t be closed”, and could also provide valuable information into making sure what happened to her son, doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“I know he’s gone, but how and why, and what were the mistakes,” she said.
Criminal lawyer Brian Pfefferle will represent Rigby-Wilcox in the inquest.
“Things like this don’t occur unless there are problems that hopefully can be corrected by the process,” he said. “The idea that we may be able to get some insight into where the gaps exist in the system so that it doesn’t happen again makes this very important.”
The Saskatoon Police Service released a statement to CTV News, saying they understand “that the inquest into the death of Steven Rigby is delayed due to COVID-19 concerns. At the same time we know that this is a very trying delay to Mr. Rigby’s family and for all those who wish to participate in the inquest process to better understand the events surrounding his death.”
Rigby-Wilcox says the delay of the inquest leaves more time for others to suffer the same fate as her son, and that the system that let down her son needs to be held accountable.
“He left me with that purpose,” she said. “I have to continue that because he just loved people so much that he just did not want anybody to suffer.”