It’s neither a homicide nor a suicide.
That’s the finding of a coroner’s jury which has spent the past two weeks examining the death of Steve Mesic.
The five member jury has concluded an inquest into the police shooting of the 45 year old Hamilton man, by ruling that the classification for his death is “undetermined”.
Mesic had a history of mental illness and had walked away from voluntary care at St. Joseph’s Hospital last June.7th. He then wandered into traffic on both the Jolley Cut and the LINC before he died in a confrontation with police outside of his mountain townhouse where he was shot six times in the upper torso.
During closing arguments, police lawyers argued that Mesic was on a “suicide mission”, while the lawyer representing his family wanted a finding of homicide arguing that the officers had “tunnel vision” and failed to properly apply their specialized training.
The other big task for inquest jurors was to make recommendations that would prevent another death from occuring under similar circumstances and they came up with 10 of them.
Four of the recommendations involve St. Joseph’s Hospital, which is asked to review its patient observation process including the possible use of an arm band, bar code scanning system within its mental health and addictions program. It is also asked to develop a specific policy for off-ward passes.
Chief Psychiatrist Peter Cook says the suggestions seem “actionable” and require careful consideration.
The Hamilton Police Service is the subject of three recommendations, including annual “emotionally disturbed persons” training provided by consumers and survivors of mental health services.
The service is also asked to study the results of the current project being piloted by Toronto Police with respect to lapel cameras.
Another recommendation urges the Ontario Police College to include the events surrounding Mesic’s death in scenario training.
From Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire:
The Inquest into the death of Steve Mesic is concluded and the Hamilton Police Service respects the Coroner’s Inquest process and we thank the jury for their commitment to this important incident.
The loss of life is tragic at any time and the effects are significant for everyone involved. The Hamilton Police Service extends its condolences to the family of Steve Mesic for their loss.
We remain committed to our community and we will review the recommendations that have been made with the view to enhance our service to our citizens. We will address the issues in a report to the Hamilton Police Services Board on this review.
We will continue to train our members to defuse, de-escalate and respond to critical incidents as we have for many years and the inquest jury recommendation to enhance training can only make our Service better. We are a learning organization committed to public safety and our officers have excellent training, good policy direction and quality supervision that allow them to do this difficult job in the most professional manner.