‘Months added to wait’ for family of police-shooting victim

Spike in investigations adds to ‘challenge with timeliness’: IIO spokesperson.

Jennifer Brooks marches with supporters in February

Jennifer Brooks marches with supporters in February

The mother of police-shooting victim Hudson Brooks said she was devastated to learn completion of third-party reports attributed to holding up the investigation into her son’s death last summer will be delayed another five months.

Jennifer Brooks told Peace Arch News Wednesday she was told of the delay last Friday by a liaison with the Independent Investigations Office, which has been handling the case since the incident took place July 18.

“This could go on forever,” Brooks said. “Who knows when they’re going to stall again.”

Brooks has repeatedly expressed frustration at the lack of information about the events surrounding her son’s death outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment. According to police, officers responded to reports of a disturbance in the 1800-block of 152 Street around 2:30 a.m. when a struggle ensued. Hudson, 20, was shot, and an officer suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound; investigators later confided only police-issued firearms were found at the scene.

Marten Youssef, manager of strategic communications with the IIO, told PAN in an interview that he can’t confirm what Brooks was told about the expected completion date of the third-party reports.

“We normally don’t report when the reports are expected to come back,” Youssef said, pointing out that unexpected delays or backlogs might affect their predicted completion date.

While he would not address specifics of Brooks’ investigation, Youssef acknowledged that the IIO has “had a big challenge with timeliness,” which he contributed to both the slow pace of getting third-party reports completed and a spike in officer-involved incidents.

Youssef cited 20 officer-involved fatalities in the province from September 2014 for a period of “about a year,” noting 12 of those involved firearms.

“Those are homicide investigations, and they require an incredible amount of resources,” he said.

When asked if there was any method by which basic facts of cases could be made public, without comprising the IIO’s investigation, Youssef said that investigators are trained to “go where the evidence takes you,” which can sometimes change basic facts as details come to light throughout the course of the investigation.

“We want to be transparent. The challenge with that is this is not a trial by media,” he said. “We don’t want to release information that could potentially jeopardize a trial, in whatever case we do. And that’s a big risk because the public deserves information, but it’s just a matter of patience.”

Youssef said the IIO – which currently has a staff of 57, including eight new investigators currently in training – is “exploring our alternatives” when it comes to commissioning third-party reports, currently undertaken by the RCMP national labs.

Brooks said she was shocked to learn from the IIO liaison that testing was being carried out by an RCMP-run lab.

“How come the IIO doesn’t have its own ballistics lab?” Brooks said. “Why is the IIO letting the RCMP test their own guns? That doesn’t make sense to me.”

When asked about a perceived conflict of having an RCMP lab working on an RCMP-involved case, Youssef said the labs hire “accredited scientists, and people who have been vetted through the court system.”

As Brooks prepares to mark nine months since her son was killed, she urged the community to continue pressuring officials for some answers about an incident she said has had a “huge trickle-down effect” on many youth in the area.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but we have to do something as a community,” she said.