Gunfire was only option, testifies Mountie who shot and killed Rodney Levi

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Rodney Levi, 48, was shot and killed by an RCMP officer responding to a report of an 'unwanted person.' (Submitted by Tara Louise Perley - image credit)
Rodney Levi, 48, was shot and killed by an RCMP officer responding to a report of an 'unwanted person.' (Submitted by Tara Louise Perley - image credit)

The RCMP officer who fatally shot Rodney Levi told a coroner's inquest into the 48-year-old's death last year that he doesn't think any additional training would have led to a different outcome.

Levi, of Metepenagiag First Nation, was shot outside the residence of a church pastor near Sunny Corner on June 12, 2020.

RCMP Const. Scott Hait testified he fired his pistol twice because Levi wouldn't drop two kitchen knives and three attempts to use a Taser by a second officer were not successful.

"He started to take very aggressive and quick steps toward me," Hait testified Monday morning as the inquest resumed. He said he was fearful at that point for his life as the two were only several feet apart on a deck.

"I made a decision to stop that threat from proceeding any further and I fired two shots from my pistol," Hait said.

It was the first time hearing from the officers involved in the shooting who, until Monday, had not previously been named.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

Levi's family members teared up at several points during Monday's testimony.

Alisa Lombard, a lawyer representing Levi family members attending the inquest, told reporters after the officer's testimony that they heard new details, including things about the responding officers' training.

"I think it's been helpful," Lombard said. "It is the first time the family has the opportunity to hear directly from the officers attending at the scene.

"I think in that respect, they provided some new information and some information that hopefully will be helpful to the jury and considering how to prevent like deaths in the future."

Rachel Cave/CBC
Rachel Cave/CBC

Hait, who had only completed RCMP training about eight months before the shooting, said he wasn't equipped with or trained to use a Taser.

P.J. Veniot, a former Crown prosecutor who is questioning witnesses during the inquest, asked Hait if he had any other weapons he could have used.

Hait said he didn't. A woman sitting near Levi's family in the hearing room shouted out "mace?" which drew no answer from Hait. He later said he was also equipped with a baton and pepper spray.

Veniot asked Hait if he felt he had any other choice but to shoot Levi.

"I do not feel that," Hait said.

He looked at me. He shouted, 'You are going to have to put a bullet in me.' - Scott Hait, RCMP constable

The inquest began Sept. 28 and was expected to last up to eight days at the Rodd Miramichi River Hotel.

The inquest is not to lay blame but to have a five-member jury come up with recommendations on how to prevent another death like Levi's.

The inquest has heard Levi went with another person to the home of church pastor Brodie MacLeod, where they were eating dinner.

Recordings of 911 calls were played Monday from MacLeod's wife and son indicate Levi had taken the two knives from the home and wouldn't give them back. The inquest heard last week that Levi had brought the knives from elsewhere.

Robbin MacLeod, in one of the calls, said Levi wasn't acting threatening, but she was nervous.

First officer to arrive

Hait testified he was the first officer to arrive at the home. He said things appeared OK when he got there.

"It remained calm there for quite some time while we were talking," Hait said.

Recordings indicate he asked for an ambulance and about a mobile crisis unit from Miramichi because the incident appeared to be a possible mental health issue.

Hait said he asked Levi if he was suicidal, and Levi indicated he did want to harm himself but didn't have a plan.

Hait testified he told Levi he was being apprehended under the province's Mental Health Act, which allows people to be taken into custody so a physician can see them.

A second officer, Const. Justin Napke, arrived and Hait said they told Levi to take the knives out of his pocket and drop them so they could take him into custody.

Shot him twice

Hait said Levi stopped responding and looked away. Hait said Napke told Levi to put his hands over his head so they could remove the knives, and Hait took a step closer thinking Levi was co-operating.

Hait said Levi then put his hands in his hoodie pocket and pulled out the knives while they were about 10 feet (about three metres) apart.

Hait drew his pistol while Napke tried to use his Taser three times on Levi. At one point, Levi dropped one knife, Hait said, but picked it up again.

Hait said Levi was then holding the knives in a more aggressive manner.

"He looked at me. He shouted, 'You are going to have to put a bullet in me,'" Hait testified, saying Levi then began moving toward him.

At that point, he shot Levi twice, saying officers are trained to shoot for the centre of a person's mass and keep shooting until a threat is stopped

Jurors ask questions

Several of the jurors, who cannot be identified, asked Hait questions about his training, the use of force, and whether he thinks there is other training that could have led to a different outcome.

"I don't think so," Hait said of additional training, later adding, "With the threat we were presented with, we did what we had to do."

Hait said he returned to active duty in October last year. Napke testified he remained off work because of the shooting until two weeks ago.

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