Father of Sask. man shot dead by police grapples with loss and lingering questions

·3 min read
Ryan Booker (left) loved his family and his friends, said his dad Barry Nosal. Nosal described his son as the type of person who would give another the shirt off his back.  (Submitted by Barry Nosal - image credit)
Ryan Booker (left) loved his family and his friends, said his dad Barry Nosal. Nosal described his son as the type of person who would give another the shirt off his back. (Submitted by Barry Nosal - image credit)

A Saskatchewan family is grieving the loss of Ryan Booker, who was fatally shot by a police officer near Belle Plaine, Sask., on Sunday.

"It can't get any harder than this, so we're all here together in supporting each other," said Booker's dad, Barry Nosal, on Monday.

Nosal described his son as kind — the type of person who would give others the shirt off his back.

"He was a good kid. I loved him. Everybody that knew him loved him, and we all make mistakes. He made a mistake. I just don't know if this mistake needed to end like it did," Nosal said.

Booker died on Highway 1, about six hours after police first interacted with him.

The police received a call at 1:10 a.m. CST about Booker allegedly uttering threats in his car in Moose Jaw. The police said Booker left that location, headed down Highway 1 and pulled over near Belle Plaine, about 40 kilometres west of Regina.

Police have alleged that Booker pointed his gun at officers at around 7 a.m. CST and said when he didn't comply with demands, they shot him.

Nosal wishes he had more information about what transpired in the moments before that shot.

"If he shouldered his gun, maybe they had to, but [it's] pretty hard to shoulder a gun in a Toyota Camry," Nosal said. "I'm just curious what warranted taking the shot prior before giving me a chance to maybe talk him down."

Nosal said he tried to reach his son in the hours before his death, and that he drove out on Highway 1 toward Belle Plaine and identified himself as Booker's father to police, giving his number.

He said they told him to park in town and wait. He grabbed a coffee at the gas station and waited for what he thinks was about about two hours.

The police didn't call. When they eventually came to speak with him, it was to tell him that his son had died.

"Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't help to think if they'd give me a chance to talk to him," Nosal paused, taking a moment to reflect. He said the tragic event that unfolded was atypical for his son's usual behaviour.

"I just want it clear that this wasn't him. This absolutely wasn't him, he was a nice guy. He was a fun guy, and he had a bad night."

Submitted by Barry Nosal
Submitted by Barry Nosal

Nosal said his son was a loving sibling, partner and dad who had many friends, was happy-go-lucky and was a "rockstar" mechanic who excelled at his work. He said Booker was his hunting partner. He was a person who loved the outdoors and would walk for miles in search of deer.

Booker would have turned 27 on Dec. 17. Nosal said his son may have been struggling with mental illness.

"He told his mom he felt worthless. I didn't know he was to that point, but I could have helped him. I think if I would have had the opportunity to intervene I could have helped him."

Regina SWAT and the RCMP Critical Incident Response Team were called to the scene, where RCMP say crisis negotiators tried to verbally de-escalate the situation. The incident will be investigated by Saskatoon Police Service, since its officers weren't involved.

The tragedy has left Nosal with countless questions.

"All kinds of things are going through my head right now and I don't want to blame anyone, and I'm sure the officer isn't feeling very good about himself right now, but I'm the one who has the loss."

He said he was told by police that there was a drone used during the incident and wonders if some of the incident was caught on video.

Nosal said he hopes the external investigation reveals why he wasn't called upon in some way to try to de-escalate the situation and why police fired the shot.

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