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Myles Gray died after suffering injuries during his arrest by Vancouver police in 2015.Margie Reed/The Canadian Press

For the first time since Myles Gray’s death more than seven years ago, Vancouver police officers have spoken publicly about the moment they saw him die while struggling with the 33-year-old man in a shaded backyard.

But each of the first five officers to arrive on the scene that day in August, 2015, testified they had little to no recollection as to the punches, kicks and baton strikes their colleagues hit Mr. Gray with during the protracted struggle, with some constables attributing this to the “tunnel vision” common during traumatic events.

A coroner’s inquest is trying to determine “how, when, where and by what means” the entrepreneur from Sechelt, B.C., died after suffering a broken nose, eye socket, rib and voice box, as well as brain bleeding and a ruptured testicle. One of the inquest jury’s other stated aims is to make recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths and ensure “public confidence that the circumstances surrounding the death of an individual will not be overlooked, concealed or ignored.”

The fourth day of testimony began Thursday with Constable Joshua Wong, who had joined the force a year prior to the death, testifying that he and his uniformed patrol partner arrived to back up a trio of their colleagues – one of whom was crawling toward him whimpering after being knocked out.

Constable Wong said he soon deployed pepper spray and strikes using his hands, knees and baton as he and the other officers tried to handcuff Mr. Gray, who was screaming and thrashing about as another constable tried to restrain him from behind in a bear hug. Constable Wong’s partner, Constable Nick Thompson, who testified right after him, said he also joined in this struggle under a large bush and soon dodged a kick from Mr. Gray – hitting a branch and opening up a cut on his forehead that bled heavily.

Two other constables then arrived and helped drag Mr. Gray out from the bush, Constable Wong testified, at which point his feet were bound using a special nylon strap and he was handcuffed on his stomach. Neither Constable Wong nor Constable Thompson, who now works with Car 87 in the force’s mental-health unit, recalled how much force was applied by their fellow officers or seeing the two chokeholds their colleague had testified Wednesday to applying to Mr. Gray. Constable Thompson, who testified that he broke one of his colleague’s hands with a baton blow at one point, said he had no idea about the actions of the two other backup officers that followed them onto the scene.

Constable Wong said he remembered eventually pinning Mr. Gray’s right elbow, but couldn’t remember who else was doing what other than another officer shouting at his colleagues to avoid kneeling or applying pressure on Mr. Gray’s upper back, head or neck. When Mr. Gray’s lips “started going white or blue,” Constable Wong testified, officers began uncuffing him to roll him over and begin CPR.

“It appeared Constable [Derek] Cain’s first aid brought him back to being conscious, as he immediately began kicking and fighting and flailing once again,” Constable Wong testified. “He was also screaming somebody’s name, a male’s name – again I’m not sure exactly what it was – before he passed away.”

Ian Donaldson, counsel for Mr. Gray’s family, asked Constable Wong whether he noticed “raccoon eyes” on Mr. Gray’s face or a bloody nose after all the punches and kicks he sustained, but the officer said he only noticed his lips turning blue.

The seven officers who first responded remain on active duty but face professional misconduct charges of using too much force. That process began after a criminal probe by the provincial Independent Investigations Office ended two years ago. The civilian-led watchdog, which investigates deaths or serious injuries at the hands of police, recommended charges against the seven, but Crown prosecutors announced that it was hamstrung by the “incomplete” and “inconsistent” accounts police had given investigators from the office. At one point, the agency went to court to get the first officer to respond that day to get her to sit for another interview.

Six of the officers that struggled with Mr. Gray may also have failed to take clear notes after the incident and upload them promptly into the force’s internal database, with four of these constables telling an investigator handling the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner misconduct probe that their union directed them not to fulfill this core responsibility of policing.

Constable Wong echoed that assertion during his testimony Thursday, saying a union representative told him at headquarters hours after Mr. Gray’s death not to fill out his notebook that day.

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