The police officer who fatally shot a 26-year-old Indigenous woman during a wellness check in Edmundston, N.B., two years ago says he doesn’t know why things escalated so quickly.
Edmundston police Const. Jeremy Son testified Tuesday at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Chantel Moore, who was shot on the balcony outside her apartment on June 4, 2020.
Son arrived at Moore’s home to check on her after her former boyfriend called 911 and told police he had received disturbing text messages that appeared to be coming from someone who may have been in Moore’s apartment.
The officer told the coroner’s jury that he reached the balcony outside Moore’s third-floor apartment at around 2:30 a.m. and could see through the window that she was sleeping on a couch.
Son, who is testifying in French, told jurors that Moore woke after he knocked on the window and shone a light on himself to show her he was a police officer in uniform. Moore appeared to grab something metallic and headed for the door of the apartment, Son told the five-member jury.
Moore exited the apartment pointing a knife in the air and had an angry expression on her face, Son testified. She advanced toward him despite his demands that she drop the knife, he said. “She kept moving toward me,” Son told the inquest.
He said he backed up, adding that once he got to the railing of the balcony, he had nowhere else to go. Son said he shot Moore four times in quick succession and she fell to the floor of the balcony.
“It happened very quickly,” he said, at a loss to explain why.
Edmundston Police Force policy states that officers should use their firearms as “soon as there is risk of serious injury or death.” Son said the police force only had one working Taser, and on that night, the weapon was with another officer.
Earlier Tuesday, Sgt. Marc Bouchard of the Edmundston Police Force told the inquest that he was the second officer to arrive on the scene. He said he saw Son on the balcony and heard the officer telling Moore to drop a knife. He then heard four gunshots in rapid succession.
Moore’s mother, Martha Martin, sat near the front of the inquest room and gasped and started crying in reaction to Bouchard’s testimony.
Bouchard said he got out of his car and ran up the stairs as he radioed “shots fired” and asked for an ambulance. He said that when he got to the balcony he saw Moore lying face down. Bouchard said Son requested latex gloves and began compressing Moore’s body in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Bouchard said he checked for a pulse.
“There was no pulse at the moment,” he told the jurors.
Bouchard said another officer arrived to the scene along with paramedics, who determined Moore was dead. Bouchard said he secured evidence and went to Martin’s home to notify her of her daughter’s death.
He said that in June 2020, Edmundston police had three Tasers but only one was working. The force, Bouchard added, is evaluating whether to equip officers with body cameras.
The shooting was investigated by Quebec’s independent police watchdog — the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes. In response to the watchdog’s investigation, New Brunswick’s Public Prosecutions Services announced in June 2021 that the evidence indicated the officer who shot Moore was responding to a potentially lethal threat and his actions were reasonable.
Jurors at the coroner’s inquest will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths under similar circumstances.
But outside the inquiry Tuesday, Martin said more than 1,800 people have been killed by police in Canada since 1987, and it’s time for action, not more recommendations.
“Why are we not angry? Why are we not demanding change? No more recommendations, we’ve had enough. We want to see change,” she told reporters as supporters read the names of some of the people killed by police across Canada.
“Our children should be able to walk out that door, and we shouldn’t have to worry that they are not going to walk back through those doors,” she said.
The inquest is scheduled to last the rest of the week.
—Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press