Jury selection begins today for the coroner’s inquest into the death of Rodney Levi, who was fatally shot by the RCMP about 15 months ago.
The hearings will be presided over by coroner John Evans in a conference room at the Rodd Miramichi River Hotel.
Testimony is due to start Wednesday morning and the inquest could last “six to eight days”, according to the Department of Justice and Public Safety.
Levi, 48, died of gunshot wounds to the chest after being shot by a police officer on June 12, 2020 at a residence on Boom Road near Sunny Corner.
He was a member of the Metepenagiag First Nation and the second Indigenous person to be killed by New Brunswick police that month.
26-year-old Chantel Moore had been fatally shot outside her Edmundston apartment on June 4.
The purpose of the inquest is not to lay blame but to have a five-member jury come up with recommendations on how to prevent another death like Levi’s.
The Crown already decided not to lay criminal charges against the two peace officers who were at the scene.
That decision was based on evidence collected by the Quebec agency that was called to investigate the incident.
Statements, video evidence
The Bureau des Enquêtes indépendantes du Québec (BEI) gathered statements from four civilian witnesses and a 37-second video that was taken by one of them.
The video shows Levi wielding two large kitchen knives and refusing to give them up, even after being tasered three times by a police officer.
The video then captures the sound of two gunshots, then shows Levi lying on the ground.
These details were released by the Public Prosecutions Service in January.
After concluding that the officers “were acting lawfully to protect the residents of the home on that fateful evening,” the PPS posted a link to the legal opinion that had been prepared by the Crown upon reviewing the BEI report.
“While this is not our normal practice, due to the national public interest in this matter, we have made an exception to share this review,” the written statement by the PPS explained.
Public Prosecutions Service opinion
The opinion, written by Pierre Roussel, assistant attorney deputy of the attorney general and director of public prosecutions New Brunswick, said the witnesses were all basically in agreement as to what happened.
On the afternoon of June 12, Levi asked an acquaintance to give him a ride on his side-by-side to a residence just a few kilometres away from Levi’s home.
Upon arriving at the residence, witnesses said Levi’s behaviour was “strange” and he looked like he might have been under the influence of something.
Nevertheless, he was invited to have a BBQ meal outside on the patio.
While the meal was being prepared, Levi went inside the residence several times and at one point, took two big kitchen knives from the kitchen knife block.
One witness said Levi then became more aggressive, angry and perturbed.
Eventually, one witness dialled 9-1-1 and the first officer arrived on the scene just after 7 p.m.
A second officer was called to provide backup.
The report says the BEI also spoke to a witness who was related to Levi and had lived with him and was able to provide some insight into his state of mind.
According to that unnamed family member, Levi had been severely depressed and “all he talked about, was suicide by RCMP.”
Roussel says the autopsy report confirmed that Levi died from gunshots to the chest and that he had traces of amphetamine and methamphetamine in his body.
“It is this writer’s opinion that on the tragic evening of June 12, 2020, Officer A did believe, on reasonable grounds, that force or a threat of force was being used against him by Mr. Levi and that he shot at Mr. Levi for ‘the purpose of defending or protecting’ himself and others and that his actions were reasonable under the circumstances, circumstances which I would qualify as dire,” wrote Roussel.
He then recommended that no homicide charges be laid against either officer, whether for murder or manslaughter or even assault.
“I found no criminal conduct,” he concluded.
The Department of Justice and Public Safety says the coroner’s inquest is scheduled to last six to eight days.