Saskatoon officer testifies about shooting Steven Rigby at inquest

Day four of the inquest into the death of Steven Rigby began with a testimony from Saskatoon Police Service Sgt. Joel Lalonde, who fired two shots with a carbine rifle at him.

Rigby died after he was shot by police during a confrontation on Dec. 22, 2018.

Lalonde, then a constable, repeatedly testified that his goal was to deescalate the situation with Rigby and wanted to contain him at a home rather than in a vehicle. He said it was relayed to him that if Rigby got out of the vehicle, he was going to get into a shootout.

He said he was at the intersection of Valley Road and the Saskatoon landfill when Rigby was confronted by an RCMP barricade, and noted it would be confusing for Rigby to receive conflicting commands to exit the vehicle by RCMP on scene and stay in the vehicle by Saskatoon police over a Bluetooth conversation.

When Rigby’s vehicle ended up in the south ditch on Valley Road, Lalonde said he and his partner parked their vehicle to contain the situation and asked for the police spotlight which was aimed at Rigby’s vehicle to be turned off to make Rigby more comfortable.

Lalonde said after Rigby left his vehicle with a handgun and fired shots into the air, he hoped that Rigby would see police weren’t going to shoot him and give himself up.

He said Rigby lowered the gun to his right, in the direction of his partner, but said he knew if his partner had a gun pointed at him then partner would have fired.

It was when Rigby began to bring his gun around and was pointed in the direction of more officers that Lalonde said he fired two shots at Rigby.

He said he fired because he wasn’t sure if Rigby could tell police wouldn’t shoot him if he just fired shots into the air, and realized his only other option to get them to shoot him would be to fire on them.

Lalonde testified that he didn’t know who else had fired, but he could tell he had hit Rigby with his shots.

He said he wanted to get into the ditch to help, but saw that Rigby still had his finger on the trigger of his gun and appeared to move more when police approached, so they backed off.

Lalonde said there needs to be more availability of resources for people struggling with mental health, and recounted times when he’s taken people having a mental health crisis to the hospital to get assessed.

He said he feels awful about the situation, because Rigby wasn’t a bad person — it was just a bad situation.

PARENTS REACH OUT TO RIGBY’S MOM

Steven Rigby’s mother, Carey Rigby-Wilcox says she’s received numerous texts and emails from parents asking how to help their child since her son’s death.

“I realize now that you really should have your child, adult child, with a family doctor, number one,” she said.

“The next thing is, even if they have an attempt and you don't think it's serious enough or they don't want to go in, try to go in the ER. Make sure that they have that, so it's actually filed online at each individual hospital that you take them into, that that is on record.

“With anyone with addictions or mental health or depression that they're going to, make sure you take them. Sit there. If you have to wait for the five hours to see somebody, make sure you sit there.”

Rigby-Wilcox says when it comes to missing appointments for counselling, therapy, and addictions services, make sure to call and let them know why you aren’t there.

“It looks like Steven didn't show up for his counseling appointment, it was in between the time that he had to work,” she said.

PSYCHIATRIST NOT CONSULTED ABOUT RELEASE

Royal University Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Jason Wagner testified that he met with Rigby on the morning of Dec. 19, 2018, for a psychiatric assessment.

Wagner said after meeting with Rigby, his opinion was that Rigby would require involuntary hospital admission for psychiatry, was at an acute risk of suicide, and might have alcohol induced depressive disorder.

He says he started an initial treatment plan, which included involuntary admission, changing of Rigby’s anti-depressant medication, and treatments for acute alcohol withdrawal.

Wagner said he felt RIgby would probably regain capacity for voluntary treatment.

Rigby was discharged from hospital the next day and Dr. Wagner testified he doesn’t recall being consulted about his release.

He said patient discharge is based on the assessment of that patient at the time, and what’s appropriate for their treatment. He added that the treatment team is often mindful of strains on the healthcare system.

Wagner said there’s a psychiatrist shortage, and RUH’s rapid access clinic’s goal of seeing patients is two months.

He testified more space, more room, and more beds for acute and sub-acute detoxification would be positive, as well as increasing training spots for psychiatry residents, which he says is roughly five a year.