Bus drivers should have panic buttons, coroners jury recommends after Surrey shooting inquest

Coroner's jury made eight recommendations following inquest in fatal shooting of Naverone Woods, 23, in Whalley in 2014

Naverone Woods

Naverone Woods

SURREY — A coroner’s jury has made eight recommendations to police, transit, government and health officials following an inquest into the fatal shooting of Naverone Woods, 23, by police in Whalley in 2014.

One was that bus drivers and other transit workers have access to a 911 “panic button.”

The inquest was heard this week at Coroners Court in Burnaby, with Coroner Brynne Redford presiding.

Last year, the director of the Surrey-based Independent Investigation Office of B.C. (IIO), a police watchdog group, found a Transit Police officer not guilty of any crime when she shot a knife-wielding Woods at a Whalley grocery store in 2014.

The Hazelton B.C. man was shot on Dec. 28, 2014, at the Safeway at 10355 King George Blvd. after he grabbed a knife, stabbed himself numerous times and advanced on a male and female police officer. He was pronounced dead at Royal Columbian Hospital in the operating room.

An autopsy found Woods stabbed himself 14 times and died of “stab and gunshot wounds to the right arm and torso.”

SEE ALSO: Man shot by transit police in Surrey repeatedly stabbed himself before shooting: witnesses

The IIO interviewed more than 20 witnesses, including the officers themselves, and also reviewed surveillance footage. Among them was a bus driver who said that before Naverone entered the grocery store, she closed her doors after he threw himself at them, screaming.

Following the coroner’s inquest, the jury recommended that Transit Police review Wood’s death “with an eye towards” preventing similar one, and embrace a program similar to the RCMP’s Car 67 program which would be accessible at all times by transit staff.

Car 67, developed by the Surrey RCMP and Fraser Health Authority, has a police officer and clinical nurse in an unmarked car responding to emergency mental health crises.

The jury also recommended that TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company train bus drivers and security staff how to deal with people with mental illness and intoxicated people, and how to get emergency help quickly, have direct access to a 911 panic button, and that the companies “explore options for a direct communications channel between transit operators.”

Anne Drennan, spokeswoman for the Transit Police, said their “deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. Woods.

“Metro Vancouver Transit Police will carefully consider the recommendations resulting from the recent inquest.”

Further, the jury called on a ballistics lane to “expedite” ballistic results related to police shootings so reports are available to the IIO and other agencies within 90 days.

The jury recommended that the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General of BC “develop a common language and terms of reference that are used by all police and associated agencies for identification and understanding of how to respond to critical incidents,” and also recommended that the provincial Ministry of Health “provide education through advertising to inform and educate the public and families on how to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction programs as well as available resources and assistance programs.”

Woods died at Royal Columbian Hospital. The coroner’s report states the cause of death was stab and gunshot wounds to the right arms and torso. The classification of death, out of possible conclusions accidental, homicide, natural, suicide and undetermined, Woods’ death is classified “undetermined.”

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

Surrey Now

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