A coroner’s inquest will resume Monday into the fatal RCMP shooting of a former British Columbian soldier in treatment at the time for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Greg Matters was shot in the back by a member of the RCMP emergency response team in the driveway of the rural home he shared with his mother near Prince George, B.C., on Sept. 10, 2012. He was being arrested for assaulting his older brother.
The two weeks of testimony before the inquest was adjourned in December raised as many questions as it provided answers about the death of the 40-year-old former peacekeeper. The inquest was originally scheduled for just one week.
“I have so many questions,” says Mr. Matters’s mother, Lorraine Matters, for whom the inquest has been emotional and troubling. The inquest heard last month that Mr. Matters was honourably discharged from the military in 2009 after a 15-year career, and was already exhibiting signs of PTSD then.
The seven men and women on the coroner’s jury heard that Mr. Matters had several run-ins with police, beginning with RCMP in New Brunswick when he was based at CFB Gagetown. He said officers ultimately broke into his home and woke him at gunpoint on a purported “wellness check.”
After returning to British Columbia, Mr. Matters’s former therapist complained to police about threatening e-mails, and he was charged and acquitted of assaulting his brother. He was jailed for threatening the head of the RCMP public complaints commission over the New Brunswick incident, and later threatened to kill the Crown lawyer in that case.
The emergency response team was sent to his home the night he died to arrest him for assault related to an early-morning confrontation with his brother the day before.
Questions remain about why RCMP deployed the ERT over “what, really, was a fairly minor family dispute,” said Cameron Ward, the lawyer for Mr. Matters’s mother and sister.
“That’s the central question: Why was the response by the RCMP such an aggressive one?”
The inquest has also raised some other questions. A pathologist testified that Mr. Matters was shot twice in the back – contrary to a public report released by the province’s Independent Investigations Office, clearing police of any wrongdoing.
“That seems at odds a bit with some of the testimony,” Mr. Ward said.
The jury also heard that Mr. Matters was unable to work because of his mental health struggles and a back injury suffered in Bosnia in 2001. He was living with his mother and surviving on a $123-a-month military pension when his sister, from her home in Australia, finally contacted an operational stress injury clinic in Vancouver that took him as a client.
The RCMP officers involved testified they were aware that Mr. Matters suffered from PTSD, yet a helicopter and a team of officers dressed in head-to-toe camouflage gear and armed with M16s were sent to arrest him.
Dr. Greg Passey, who operated the stress injury clinic and was treating Mr. Matters, testified that RCMP did not allow him to speak to the former soldier as he was surrounded by police in the hours before his death.
“It is my true opinion and conviction that had I been able to speak to Greg that night, I could have talked him out,” he told jurors.
The jurors heard that Mr. Matters pleaded for help in the years prior to the standoff that night with RCMP.
He sent a handwritten note to a court-appointed psychiatrist and was doing well in his work with Dr. Passey.
Members of the emergency response team are scheduled to testify this week, as well as the lead investigator from the Independent Investigations Office.
While no officials from the Canadian Forces appear to have been called to testify, there are questions about the level of financial and mental health support Mr. Matters received after being discharged from the military, Mr. Ward said.
“There are issues, I think, of public concern surrounding the level of support that this veteran received – or lack of it,” Mr. Ward said.
“As a member of the public and a taxpayer, I’m concerned about what appears to be the inadequacy of the Canadian Forces response.”
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