When Angus David Mitchell stepped out of the green van he had been living in last year, he had been the subject of a massive manhunt and a person of interest in the murders of three people, and was later found to have had a detailed hit list that included schools, restaurants and a group home.
The RCMP shot him dead, saying Mr. Mitchell emerged from the van carrying a high-powered rifle.
How the former security guard got to the point where he was confronting 20 officers in a rural area outside Vancouver will be a question for a coroner’s jury to consider after it begins Tuesday.
“I think the actual final moments of Mr. Mitchell’s life are fairly clear,” said Barbara McLintock, a coroner’s office spokesperson. “But I think there are some interesting issues. We will probably go back a little bit, as we often do, to try to determine what brought this gentleman to this unfortunate point where he did end up being shot by the police,” she said in an interview.
She also noted a coroner’s jury cannot, by law, make findings of legal responsibility, but instead makes recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.
Mr. Mitchell, 26, was killed by police in a rural section of Maple Ridge in May, 2012. His vehicle, a Ford Aerostar that he was living in after being evicted from his apartment, was spotted by a member of the public within an hour of an extraordinary police warning. An RCMP spokesperson said anyone who had contact with Mr. Mitchell could be on his hit list, and he was armed.
Mr. Mitchell, who was raised in the Okanagan community of Vernon and had been working as a security guard, was a person of interest in the slayings of two people inside the Royal Oak Sushi House in Burnaby. The double homicide had initially confounded investigators due to the lack of motive. The victims weren’t known to police and there did not appear to be any obvious signs of robbery.
Mr. Mitchell only appeared on the RCMP’s radar after he shot a former landlord a couple of days later. The landlord survived.
After Mr. Mitchell was killed, police said investigators found detailed plans to target six individuals and six businesses across the Lower Mainland. The plans included maps and other documents related to Mr. Mitchell’s targets – schools, restaurants and a group home, among others.
But the story vanished almost as quickly as it surfaced, with police saying they would hold off on releasing some key information until the coroner’s inquest. Exactly what drove Mr. Mitchell to carry out the shootings remains unknown.
The inquest is scheduled to open Tuesday in Burnaby and to run for four days. Coroner Liana Wright is expected to hear from a couple dozen witnesses.
Sergeant Rob Vermeulen, an RCMP spokesman, said in an e-mail that the force welcomes the coroner’s inquest and its fact-finding process. “A coroner’s inquest is a forum that will allow us to disclose our investigative steps and findings with the ultimate goal of ensuring that we are providing the best policing services to the communities we serve,” he wrote.
Mr. Mitchell had links not only in the Lower Mainland, but also Vancouver Island, Alberta and Louisiana. He registered as a security guard in Alberta in August, 2010, and had a sister who lived in Edmonton. Other family members were scattered across Western Canada.
His Facebook page said he obtained his general equivalency diploma, or GED, in Denham Springs, La., in 2009, though officials there had trouble locating his records.
The Vancouver Police Department, an outside force, was brought in to investigate Mr. Mitchell’s death. In April, the force said it had cleared the RCMP officers involved of any wrongdoing.
The Vancouver department was also asked to investigate a run-in Mr. Mitchell had with police in Victoria in February, 2012. The Victoria department has said officers dealt with Mr. Mitchell due to a Mental Health Act incident. A firearm was seized, and Mr. Mitchell later filed an application to have it returned. The application was successful.
Constable Brian Montague, a Vancouver police spokesman, said in an interview the investigation into why the weapon was returned is ongoing. The issue appears likely to arise at the inquest.