It's Aug. 13 again, and that means Margie Reed has passed yet another year without her son, Myles Gray, and another year without knowing if the police officers involved in his death will face charges.
The unarmed 33-year-old businessman from Sechelt, B.C., was killed on this date in 2015 in a violent confrontation with as many as eight Vancouver police officers.
"It's been five years of hell," Reed told CBC this week.
"There's no overstating how violently traumatizing Myles's death has been to myself and to my family, but dealing with this system for five years has also been violently traumatizing."
Crown prosecutors have been considering whether to lay charges against the officers involved in Gray's death for the last year and a half. That follows an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), B.C.'s police watchdog, that lasted three years and five months.
"To me right now, there's just no end in sight," Reed said.
Reed said Crown representatives have contacted her multiple times during the pandemic to reassure her they're still working on the file, calling it a high priority.
In an email, B.C. Prosecution Service spokesperson Dan McLaughlin said Crown lawyers are still assessing potential charges, and, "We do not have a timeline for the completion of the charge assessment process in this case."
A VPD spokesperson declined to comment.
A stalled investigation
There were no civilian witnesses to Gray's death, and no surveillance footage has been found.
What we know is that the fatal encounter began when police arrived at an address in Vancouver's southeast corner to investigate reports that a man was spraying a woman with a garden hose.
The altercation that ended Gray's life took place in a backyard on Joffre Avenue in Burnaby. A forensic autopsy showed that he suffered a long list of injuries including a fractured voice box, broken nose, dislocated jaw, broken right eye socket, broken rib, broken sternum and a hemorrhagic injury on one testicle.
The investigation into what caused those injuries was stalled for months because of a dispute with Vancouver officers over their duty to cooperate with the IIO. It was only after the watchdog asked for the courts to intervene that an officer who witnessed Gray's death agreed to sit for a second interview.
The slow crawl of the investigation and the charge approval process has turned Reed's grief into an open wound that just won't heal.
"If you do get a scab, it just rips off again. But I do feel like that scar tissue is somehow getting a little bit harder," she said.
The worldwide protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism this year were also difficult to watch, triggering upsetting reminders of how Gray was killed. But Reed sees them as important, and has participated in local demonstrations.
"They have brought police brutality and racism into the forefront, which are two huge topics, so it is good," she said.
She's optimistic about the B.C. government's plans to revise the Police Act in light of concerns about systemic racism, governance and oversight, calling it a necessary move.
'I'm doing pretty damn good'
Five years ago, Reed said she had no real hope for the future, but she's slowly managed to crawl out from what she describes as "the biggest dark black hole that you could possibly ever be in."
Despite everything she's been through, Reed said she's managed to build a good life, with grandchildren she adores and the support of her family and friends.
"How I get up every day and live life the best I can, I don't really know. I don't know what's giving me the strength to move on, to carry on," Reed said.
"I think I'm doing pretty damn good."
Now she has hope, though she knows she can never have what she truly wishes for.
"Of course there needs to be charges, but that won't bring my son back, and ultimately that's the only thing I would ever want," Reed said.