Death of Riley Fairholm: a sobering police intervention
Tracy Ring has long sought to understand the circumstances surrounding the death of her son, Riley Fairholm, in 2018.
Tracy Wing, Riley Fairholm's mother, has been waiting for answers for four years. What happened on July 25, 2018? Me Géhane Kamel, who heard 22 witnesses during the coroner's public inquiry, is very clear on one point: she does not accept the thesis of suicide by police officer. His investigation report, released Wednesday morning, looks back on the moments leading up to the fatal shooting.
That night, a 911 call reported a gunman screaming on Knowlton Road in Lac-Brome. Its description is detailed. We will learn later that it is Riley Fairholm himself who makes the call. Six police officers aboard three patrol cars locate him and find that he is waving a firearm which turns out to be an air pistol. Subsequently, the police ask him to drop his weapon. He doesn't comply and reportedly says he's been planning this for five years. Faced with the threat, a policeman shoots and hits him in the head.
To this day, I cannot say that this sentence means that he wished to die by the bullets of the policemen, but it most likely influenced the behavior of the policemen. […] What seems to me to be a certainty is the fact that Riley is in crisis. He waves his weapon in all directions […] among others in the direction of the police, writes the coroner in his report.
In light of the testimony heard during her public inquiry, Me Kamel finds that the police acted as they were taught at the National Police School of Quebec, but she wonders. Could things have turned out differently? Probably, according to the coroner who lists a series of red flags. Starting with the 911 call. The details he related should have raised doubt in the officer's mind. It is unfortunately a missed appointment, writes the coroner.
During the intervention that followed, the coroner considers that there was probably no dialogue with the teenager in crisis. A communication in the vehicle, door closed, is probably not the optimal position. […] Although all the officers heard Riley shout “I've been waiting for this for five years”, no one is able to say what else he said . What if he had shouted “Help me”? […] The very idea of a potential call for help is disturbing, underlines Me Kamel.
The procedure lasted less than two minutes. Although it was justified for the police to shoot in the face of a threat, I will stick with this idea that if we had better communicated upstream, from the call to 911, if health and school professionals had built meaningful bridges, if her parents hadn't been left alone with their helplessness, perhaps Riley's life wouldn't have been cut short, she concludes.
Géhane Kamel deplores, moreover, that the parents had to wait four years before obtaining answers.
In her report, the coroner makes ten recommendations to the departments of Public Security, Health and Social Services and Education. Among them, there is the establishment of annual training for all police forces, so that they are able to intervene with people in crisis. For 911 dispatchers, she recommends adding training to identify calls from someone in a suicidal crisis.
At the end of her report, the coroner Géhane Kamel dedicates to Riley Fairholm a poem by Sully Prudhomme entitled Les Yeux which ends with these words: The eyes that are closed still see.