COLUMN: Long past time to learn why man died

Lengthy delay in Hudson Brooks shooting case, and others, is simply unacceptable, writes columnist Frank Bucholtz.

The case of the shooting death of South Surrey resident Hudson Brooks at the hands of Surrey RCMP continues to – very slowly – work its way through the Independent Investigations Office.

While the IIO says it now has all the evidence it requires, it still plans to take several more months to analyze that evidence before coming to a decision.

There is no question that the gathering of evidence is much more complex than it used to be. And cases of police-involved shooting require particular care. There is enormous public demand for more police accountability, which was the reason the IIO was created.

However, the lengthy delay in this case and others is simply unacceptable.

Brooks, 20, was shot outside the South Surrey district policing office on July 18, 2015. While little detail has emerged since that time, it is a certainty that he was unarmed.

His mother, Jennifer Brooks, did learn more details from an IIO investigator last week. This lengthy delay in providing even a minimal amount of information to grieving family members is also unacceptable.

Nonetheless, she learned that Hudson was shot at close range by an RCMP officer. He was not wearing a shirt or shoes, and was wearing a pair of shorts with no pockets.

Jennifer said that he was “having a bad night” and had been drinking. She believes he had been walking on the road, and police were then called. The initial response was limited, but when Hudson came closer to the detachment, two officers came out of the building. When Hudson came closer, one of them shot him.

Jennifer had thought that the shooting may have resulted from some kind of struggle, but she now understands that was not the case. This makes the shooting death even harder to understand, she said.

She asked why police could not deal with the situation in some other manner, and wonders why an officer would shoot rather than attempt to de-escalate a situation that did not appear to involve any threat to police officers’ safety. That is a very obvious question.

She also does not know how a female RCMP officer was injured in the incident, and would like an answer to that.

The IIO has said that all the evidence gathered will now be reviewed and the results will be sent to the chief civilian director of the IIO, Richard Rosenthal, for a decision.

Jennifer said she “is not on a witch-hunt” against the RCMP and emphasized that many officers she has had contact with since have been caring. However, she is not going to let the issue go. She wants justice for her son. He can no longer speak for himself.

A candlelight vigil was held outside the office one year after Hudson’s death. She said that is one reason the IIO has now completed the gathering of its evidence. She wants to continue to push the agency, and another vigil is planned on Sept. 18.

Jennifer wants to see charges laid at the end of the investigation. She does not believe that an officer should be able to shoot an unarmed individual and face no consequences.

“We will be demanding charges will be laid,” she said.

It is fortunate for all that she and others who support her are not willing to let this issue go. Police have enormous responsibilities and must have the ability to defend themselves, as they are frequently called into dangerous situations. At the same time, they are not above the rest of us and must face consequences when they go too far.

It is crucial this investigation come to a speedy conclusion, and the IIO announce its decision as soon as possible.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca

frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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