BURNABY, B.C. — A young man who was stabbing himself in the stomach at a grocery store in Surrey, B.C., lunged at transit police officers with knives in both hands before he was shot, the constable who pulled the trigger told a coroner’s inquest Tuesday.
The family of Naverone Woods was emotional as they listened to Const. Pamela McKinnon’s testimony about the altercation on Dec. 28, 2014, which she says led to the death of the 23-year-old man.
McKinnon testified that she and Sgt. Lee Ezra were driving to Surrey Central transit station when they heard over the police dispatch that a man had jumped over the counter of a nearby convenience store and demanded a knife.
Before arriving, they heard a second call that said the man had gone inside a Safeway store and was stabbing himself. A dispatcher also said he had chased an employee, she said.
When they entered the store, Woods was jogging on the spot with knives in both hands and mumbling incoherently, McKinnon said.
“He was bleeding heavily. There’s multiple stab wounds to his abdomen and slash wounds to his forearms. He’s sweating profusely. His eyes … were kind of like bugged out,” she said. “He’s just staring intently towards us and not responsive.”
She said she and Ezra drew their firearms and repeatedly yelled at Woods to drop the knives, but he didn’t appear to hear or react. The three of them were positioned in a triangle, with Woods between 2.5 and three metres from Ezra.
McKinnon testified that Woods suddenly lunged at Ezra. She fired but missed. Woods appeared surprised and his hands went up above his head, she said, before he lunged at Ezra again. McKinnon said she fired a second time, hitting him in the torso.
Coroner’s counsel Bryant Mackey asked McKinnon what efforts she made to clear employees from the Safeway, but she said there was no time for that. All the employees had moved toward a corner of the store, she said.
“Everything happened so fast,” she testified.
McKinnon and Ezra were carrying pepper spray, but she said it would have been ineffective. Woods was carrying knives that could have seriously injured or killed people, and pepper spray might not have stopped him from advancing, she said.
McKinnon said Woods’s death was not the outcome she wanted.
“I felt upset for him,” she said. “I felt upset for the family.”
The Independent Investigations Office, which investigates serious cases involving police, has cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. The coroner’s service holds an inquest into every police-involved death in an effort to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar fatalities.
Woods’s eyes were open but he was non-responsive verbally when paramedics arrived and his condition deteriorated on the way to hospital, paramedic Nathan Allan of the BC Ambulance Service testified.
Dr. Shelley Tweedle, an anaesthesiologist at Royal Columbian Hospital, said doctors and staff urgently worked to resuscitate Woods but he died at 9:20 a.m.
Mackey said methamphetamine was found in toxicology results.
The small courtroom was packed with members of Woods’s family, some from his hometown of Hazelton, B.C.
Outside the inquest, Melanie Woods, the young man’s sister, said she was distressed by the police officers’ testimony.
Ezra testified that an employee in the parking lot said Woods was inside chasing people, and that when he went inside the store Woods was going after a staff member, but McKinnon could not recall either incident.
“I don’t believe he had to die this way,” said Woods.
Woods’s uncle, Gary Ryan, said the family has never seen security video of the shooting. Video from inside the Safeway was played at the inquest Monday, but it didn’t show the moments before the young man’s death, he said.