The jury at a coroner’s inquest into the RCMP shooting of Alvin Wright has ruled the 22-year-old Langley father’s death a homicide.
The ruling points to his immediate cause of death as a perforating gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Coroner Vincent Stancato, in his summary to the jury, suggested the jury “give serious consideration” to a finding of homicide, a neutral term that indicates the person was killed by someone else.
The jury returned late Thursday with seven recommendations to help prevent similar deaths:
- Police announce their presence unless deemed unsafe to do so, wearing attire marked with the large reflective “POLICE” marking on the front and back of vests.
- RCMP review “command, control and communication” training and practise during multi-officer operations to develop a situational plan.
- More RCMP members be trained in using intermediate weapons such as the Taser.
- RCMP consider all possibilities of communication with the subject of a complaint before initiating contact.
- The RCMP’s practice of allowing officers involved in a shooting to pen a written report be reviewed and that an independent investigator handle their report within a minimum of 24 hours and follow up within 72 hours. Officers involved are to be assessed by a psychologist and put on administrative leave for a minimum of eight to 12 hours of counselling before being deemed fit for duty.
- RCMP review their training to ensure it includes compassionate and empathy techniques.
- Notification of next of kin in police shootings be made by either a physician or coroner.
Wright was shot dead by Langley RCMP Sgt. Donald Davidson on Aug. 6, 2010, when Wright’s common-law wife, Heather Hannon, called 911 after he kicked her out of their Langley City townhouse during a drunken fight.
Davidson found Wright crouching in his bedroom closet armed with a knife and a hatchet and testified he shot Wright in the torso at close range after Wright came forward with the knife raised.
Davidson testified that after he was shot, Wright said, “I wasn’t going to stab you, dude.”
Wright’s father, Al, took the stand Thursday afternoon and showed some family photos of his son while Hannon sobbed.
Al Wright recounted driving to the hospital after learning that his son had been shot by police.
“An RCMP officer told me my kid didn’t make it,” he said.
“In my opinion, this [hearing] should be in a criminal courtroom,” Al Wright said. He claimed “there was no accountability” because another police force, the Vancouver police, investigated the death and found no wrongdoing.
He said his son’s death has devastated the family.
“It’s a nightmare,” he said. “This could be anyone’s family. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anybody and I hope it never happens again.”