The father of the man who fatally shot two people and injured another wept as he explained how the deaths of his troubled son and the others could have been avoided if authorities had acted on warning signs earlier.
“I just think it’s such a waste,” David Mitchell testified at a coroner’s inquest. “This whole thing. Through the whole process, if things could have happened a little differently, we would have got to a different conclusion. And that’s the tragedy: It was preventable.”
Angus Mitchell was shot dead by RCMP in May, 2012, just over three months after he was arrested under the Mental Health Act for walking into a medical clinic with a high-powered rifle. He was released after he was deemed not to meet the criteria for involuntary admission to a psychiatric hospital.
When he was killed, a warrant had been out for his arrest in the murders of two people and the attempted killing of his former landlord.
His father, a financial adviser and former lawyer, sat in the front row of the inquest with his son-in-law as pictures of his son appeared on two screens on Thursday. In one, a blond child smiles for a school photo; another shows the boy with a small dog in his arms.
His father testified his son was a talented athlete and piano player.
“He was a gregarious child in the early days,” Mr. Mitchell said. “He was a straight-A student in Grade 6. He had a keen zest for life.”
The first indication of trouble came a couple of years later, when Angus plucked out his eyebrows. His parents became concerned and took him to a child psychiatrist, but were told it was not unusual.
During the next decade, he showed signs of being troubled: drug and alcohol abuse; theft, including stealing his mother’s engagement ring; suspensions and expulsions from several schools; and criminal charges in Alberta.
Treatment centres and therapists never really helped, his father told the inquest. As time went on, Angus began to distance himself from his family.
He said things became alarming in late 2010 when he refused his son’s request to return home to live.
“He started to write really abusive e-mails after that time and they escalated,” Mr. Mitchell testified.
Some e-mails contained death threats to family members – including to his favourite sister – and Mr. Mitchell testified he took stacks of them to the RCMP.
“They had all that information in their files,” he said. “I’m not sure as a parent what else I could do with that, or where else I could go.”
Mr. Mitchell said he went to authorities numerous times, wondering if his son could be forced to have a thorough psychiatric assessment. He was told a triggering event was necessary before a court could order that.
“I wondered what that triggering event would be,” Mr. Mitchell said. “And of course – the horror – look what has happened.”
On May 27, 2012, Mr. Mitchell killed a sushi restaurant owner and an employee with a high-powered rifle. Two days later, he shot and injured his former landlord.
The RCMP’s Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team issued a public warning on May 30, and a region-wide manhunt ensued. Acting on a tip from a witness, police found Angus in Maple Ridge. When confronted, he fired at RCMP officers, was injured in the return fire and later died.
Police later said Angus had a hit list of individuals and businesses.
“The information was there – nobody got it,” Mr. Mitchell testified. “And had they got it, at different stages … then I believe that all the horror that occurred subsequently would have been prevented.”