Inquest hears timeline of tense moments before Saskatoon man was shot by police
SASKATOON -- On day two of the inquest into the death of Steven Rigby, Saskatoon police major crimes unit officer Tony Boensch detailed the events leading up to the shooting of Rigby.
The 27-year-old died after he was shot by police during a confrontation on Dec. 22, 2018.
The inquest also heard about his medical history, which included seven separate visits to doctors and hospitals for psychiatric assessment in the months before the incident.
Officers at the scene did not know about Rigby’s history of mental health issues, but were told that if Rigby observed police he would shoot at them or into the air to get them to shoot at him.
Dashcam footage from Saskatoon police and RCMP cruisers of the incident were played, with several members of Rigby’s family breaking down into tears.
The footage showed Rigby walking away from his vehicle and pointing his gun, police can be heard shouting "drop the gun." Shots ring out, and Rigby is seen falling to the ground.
Rigby’s mom, Carey Rigby-Wilcox, called Tuesday morning the most difficult period of the inquest so far.
“We had a few family members that hadn't seen it, so it was difficult for them,” she said. “It's not something that really I feel like any mother should have to watch, but then we're going to watch it over and over again, so it's kind of devastating.
“It's heartbreaking, it's sad, knowing that's the last time your child was alive.”
Boensch described the series of events, starting with the moment Rigby arrived at a roadblock on Valley Road at 8:16 pm.
There was confusion, as RCMP officers ordered Rigby to get out of his vehicle. At the same time, Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) was on the phone with him and told him to stay in the car.
Rigby had driven over a spike belt, and ended up putting his vehicle in the ditch on Valley Road.
Rigby had a .22 calibre pistol with a 10-round magazine, with six rounds remaining and one in the chamber.
At 9:16 p.mm officers observed Rigby holding the gun and falling down due to intoxication, and at 9:18 he fired two shots into the air.
More than half a dozen other SPS and RCMP officers had rifles and firearms pointed at him.
At 9:20 Rigby fired into the air again and pointed his gun in the direction of police.
Three officers fired their weapons at Rigby, which included a firearm, shotgun and carbine rifle.
Officers approached Rigby who was still moving and had his finger on the trigger, so they retreated back behind an armoured vehicle.
At 9:26 pm, officers again approached Rigby and took his firearm. Emergency medical services then approached Rigby, who was unresponsive.
He was transported to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, and at 9:57 p.m. Rigby was pronounced dead.
The inquest is taking place at the Saskatoon Inn Hotel & Conference Centre.
The primary focus of an inquest is to better understand the circumstances surrounding a person's death and inform the public of its findings.
Inquest juries typically offer recommendations about how similar deaths could potentially be avoided in the future.
RCMP OFFICER TESTIFIES
In the afternoon, RCMP Cpl. Dean Flaman testified to being dispatched to the Pike Lake area for an armed man who was heading towards the city. In conversations with dispatch, Flaman said they decided to intercept Rigby before he reached the city, setting up a containment of RCMP vehicles and a spike belt on Valley Road at the intersection of the Saskatoon landfill.
Flaman said Rigby showed up driving on the wrong side of the road, and was more interested in a conversation he was having via bluetooth in his vehicle than listening to Flaman’s commands of showing his hands and exiting the vehicle. Flaman said this frustrated him.
Flaman said he had his rifle drawn and pointed at Rigby, who was in his vehicle, and was unaware of any of Rigby’s background of mental health issues or suicide attempts.
Flaman said Rigby asked for a lighter, and he and other RCMP officers planned to throw the lighter short to get Rigby to exit the vehicle, where they would apprehend him by tackling or tasing, but the lighter bounced close enough to the car for Rigby to get it without exiting.
After Saskatoon police arrived on scene, Flaman said RCMP were asked to give Rigby space, so he relinquished command of the scene and moved to containment.
Rigby drove over the spike strip and away from Flaman, and the rest of the incident was too far away for him to provide exact details of what happened.
Flaman testified that he’s never had any formal mental health training in his 20 years with RCMP and said any more training would help.
He also said communication can be the first thing to go out the window in certain situations, and direct lines of communication could be improved to keep everyone informed.
The inquest also heard from both responding paramedics to the incident, who said Rigby was unconscious in the snow when they approached him after being told by SPS that it was safe to do so.
Paramedics say Rigby was in cardiac arrest and had no pulse, and CPR did not get his heart beating.