The B.C. government has announced that a coroner’s inquest will be held to investigate the death of Aaron Lee Prince, a man who was fatally shot by police near Qualicum Beach on October 12, 2017. The inquest aims to determine the facts surrounding Prince’s death and make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Prince, 35 at the time of the incident, was shot by two Oceanside RCMP officers after a violent struggle ensued when they attempted to apprehend him under the Mental Health Act. The officers were responding to a 911 call from a friend who reported that Prince had stabbed himself in the chest with a knife and was hearing voices.
During the struggle, one officer reported being thrown down an embankment and witnessing Prince assaulting the other officer. Despite attempts to subdue him with pepper spray and a Taser, Prince continued the assault. The officer on the ground shouted that Prince was going for his gun, prompting the other officer to fire warning shots into the ditch. When Prince pinned the officer to the ground, fearing for his life, both officers fired their weapons, resulting in Prince’s death.
The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared both officers of criminal wrongdoing in 2020. However, under the B.C. Coroners Act, inquests are mandatory for deaths that occur while an individual is detained or in the custody of a police officer. The purpose of the inquest is not to assign legal responsibility but to establish the facts, make recommendations, and ensure transparency and public confidence in the circumstances surrounding the death.
Coroner Carolyn Maxwell will preside over the inquest, which will take place on November 7 at the Nanaimo Law Courts. A jury will hear evidence given under oath to assist in determining the circumstances and potential improvements in police responses to similar situations involving mental health issues.
What is the purpose of a coroner’s inquest?
The purpose of a coroner’s inquest is to determine the facts related to a death, make recommendations to prevent similar deaths, and ensure transparency and public confidence in the circumstances surrounding the death. It is not meant to assign legal responsibility.
Why was an inquest ordered in this case?
Under the B.C. Coroners Act, inquests are mandatory for deaths that occur while a person is detained by or in the custody of a police officer.
When will the inquest take place?
The inquest will begin at 9:30 a.m. on November 7 at the Nanaimo Law Courts.