Warning: Graphic content
The inquest into the death of Geoff Morris, who was shot and killed by Regina police over two years ago, began on Monday at the Atlas Hotel.
Morris died on May, 4 2019, in what policed called a hostage situation. He was 41 at the time.
Regina police previously reported that while officers worked to de-escalate the situation, an officer fired a carbine rifle.
On Monday, members of the jury were selected from two groups of people: general population and the Indigenous population.
The jury selected at the inquest isn’t tasked with assigning guilt in the case, but they’ll give recommendations to police to try and prevent deadly outcomes like this one in the future.
Judge Brent Gough explained to the jury that this inquest is public and serves several functions, including ascertaining the identity of the deceased and how they died.
An inquest is not a forum to resolve civil disputes or conduct prosecution, Gough added. He described the proceedings as investigatory, not accusatory or adversarial.
Members of the jury are also able to ask questions of witnesses who testify.
On Monday, the jury heard from Const. Rylan Trithart who was one of the officers who responded to the initial complaint of a domestic disturbance at the Halifax Street apartment.
Trithart said officers entered the building and went to the second floor where the incident was reportedly happening. Officers listened at the apartment door and heard a man and woman yelling. At one point, an officer knocked on the door and announced police presence. The officers also tried opening the door but it was locked.
The yelling continued and then Trithart described hearing a woman scream.
“I heard this scream that I have never heard before. That made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”
The scream was so loud, Trithart said it sounded like someone was standing beside him and screaming into his ear even though he testified it came from the apartment room.
Trithart said louder bangs were heard after. He said he was terrified about what was going on in the room. Tirthart decided to kick down the door and officers entered the suite.
“We had to get into that suite to figure out what was going on,” he said Monday.
Upon kicking down the door, another woman ran out of the suite.
He added another officer pulled out their firearm and Trithart pulled out his taser.
Trithart said Morris was sitting down on the couch with what appeared to be two knives, one in each hand, held up in the air. Trithart said the knives were pointed directly at a woman who was kneeling on the ground facing Morris, who had his legs wrapped around the woman.
Trithart said Morris told police “I’ll kill her” in reference to the woman facing him.
Morris was agitated and angry, Trithart testified.
“I was terrified for her. I didn’t know how this would go. I truly believe that he was going to harm her. I was extremely fearful for her safety,” Trithart said.
Trithart did not use his taser on Morris. He explained that in order to be effective, both prongs of a taser need to make contact with a person’s body. Trithart said he could not see enough of Morris’ body to use the taser, and worried if he did and it was ineffective it could escalate the situation further.
Crisis negotiators and the SWAT team was also called in to assist on the call. Trithart later left the room to make room for another officer.
When asked if anything could be done to prevent future deaths in similar situations, Trithart said he couldn’t think of anything.
“I’ve thought about this for over two years, believe me I thought about it a lot. I can’t think of a single thing I could have done differently,” Trithart said.
He added that the situation has bothered him.
“It’s affected people I care about, police officers, friends of mine. It’s affected family of someone I don’t know. It’s something that no police officer wants to do — believe me, none of us want this to happen,” Trithart told the room.
Const. Tyrell Diebert also testified during Monday’s proceedings and said he saw Morris get shot. After this, police officers handcuffed Morris and checked his vitals. EMS arrived minutes later.
Diebert said officers didn’t know Morris was dead when they handcuffed him. At the time, Diebert said they didn’t know if Morris was still moving and couldn’t see the knives.
Several officers testified on Monday that they believed Morris was trying to commit suicide-by-cop. Const. Kyle Van-Mulligan said he heard Morris say he wouldn’t go out without a body bag.
Const. Bryceton Fink, another officer who was present for the call, said he heard Morris tell the woman, “I told you this is how I was going to go out today.”
The inquest will continue throughout the week with other witnesses and police officers expected to testify, including the officer who shot Morris.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
Learn more about how to help someone in crisis on the government of Canada’s website.
-with files from Jonathan Guignard