Inquest concludes into police-involved deaths of mother and son in northern B.C.

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SMITHERS, B.C. — A coroner's jury examining the police-involved shootings of a mother and her adult son in northern British Columbia has made five recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.

The jury released its recommendations Saturday after a weeklong inquest in Smithers examining the April 21, 2016 RCMP shootings of 39-year-old Jovan Williams and his 73-year-old mother Shirley Williams outside their home in Granisle, east of Smithers.

The shootings, which the coroner's report shows happened within two minutes of each other, have been ruled homicides — a neutral term that does not imply criminal intent or blame.

The jury recommends the RCMP deploy members in pairs, especially to high-risk responses in remote communities; consider the use of family members or victim support personnel rather than officers during crisis communications in those rural areas; and, reopen its Granisle detachment.

A recommendation to Northern Health says it should ensure appropriate followup in remote villages when assessing and treating clients with mental health issues.

Both the health authority and RCMP are urged to develop and implement community crisis intervention teams in isolated communities.

An Independent Investigations Office report in 2018 cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in both shootings, finding he was answering a report of a dispute involving a handgun and, as he neared the Williams' house, Jovan Williams ran out, pointed a rifle and threw a fuel-filled bottle, while Shirley Williams emerged carrying a shotgun and wearing a bulletproof vest.

The inquest was originally scheduled for June of last year but was put off until last week due to the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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