The Edmundston Police Force officer who fatally shot Chantel Moore in New Brunswick last year won't face criminal charges, prosecutors announced Monday.
The Public Prosecutions Service of New Brunswick said in a news release there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction based on the evidence.
The 26-year-old from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in British Columbia was shot by an officer during a wellness check on June 4, 2020.
The release said the officer believed Moore was using force or the threat of force against him, that he shot her to defend himself and that his actions were reasonable under the circumstances.
B.C's First Nations Leadership Council called the ruling a "stinging blow" and said it is an offensive reminder that Indigenous people in Canada still cannot count on the justice system for protection and accountability.
"Today, justice remains elusive for Chantel Moore's family and loved ones, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, and for First Nations across the country who experience, year after year, the devastating impacts of racialized policing, colonial violence, and institutionalized racism," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs in a statement.
WATCH | Moore's mother on searching for police accountability:
Under the Criminal Code, police can use deadly force to defend themselves or others or if the force is reasonable under the circumstances. Factors to determine if force was reasonable include whether a person has a weapon and if there were other means available for defence.
Moore's death during a time of increased attention on the use of force by police drew national attention and fuelled calls for a provincial inquiry into systemic racism in the justice system.
Moore had recently moved to the northwestern New Brunswick city from Vancouver Island to be closer to her young daughter, Gracie, and her mother, Martha Martin.
Following Moore's death, Quebec's police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), was asked to investigate the officer's actions last year.
The announcement Monday followed a meeting between prosecutors and Moore's family to discuss the outcome of the BEI investigation. Prosecutors also released a 22-page analysis of the evidence in the case by Patrick Wilbur, the Saint John regional director of Public Prosecution Services.
The evidence included police dash-cam video, surveillance video from retail locations, witness statements, statements from police officers, as well as reports related to the officer's firearm and a knife found at the scene.
There was no video showing the shooting because Edmundston police don't have body-worn cameras.
Information on Moore's phone, including social media messages, was also examined.
Police responded after worrying messages
The Crown's analysis said that at 2:06 a.m., on June 4 Moore's ex-boyfriend called Edmundston police from Quebec concerned for her well being because of messages he received from her Facebook account on June 3. One message suggested someone was watching Moore sleep.
Witnesses and evidence showed Moore had been drinking that evening with friends. One neighbour asked them to keep the noise down.
After police were called, one officer went to Moore's apartment, going up an exterior set of stairs to a balcony entrance. Another officer waited in a police car, according to the Crown's analysis.
A neighbour told investigators he heard banging, looked out and saw the officer outside Moore's apartment with a flashlight.
The officer, whose name is Const. Jeremy Son, according to documents obtained earlier by CBC News but is called Officer 1 in the analysis, told investigators that he recognized Moore from a previous encounter when Moore had broken into her mother's home after forgetting her key. He said he used his flashlight to illuminate the word "POLICE" on his uniform.
The officer told investigators he was surprised to see Moore grab something from a kitchen counter. He said that as she approached the door, she appeared "angry with a furrowed brow."
The officer drew his pistol and backed up to his left instead of the stairway. The officer told investigators that Moore came out of the apartment moving wordlessly in his direction with a knife in her left hand.
The report said the officer spoke to Moore in French, telling her to drop the knife, something witnesses said they heard, but she continued toward him, cornering him on the third-floor balcony.
"Scared that she would hurt or kill him, Officer 1 said he fired his gun until the threat was no longer present," according to the summary of the officer's statement.
Officer did not have Taser
The officer, a use of force instructor with the Edmundston police for two years, fired four shots.
He was also equipped with pepper spray and a baton, but did not have a Taser. The report said normally one officer per shift carries a Taser and he did not have it that night.
The analysis said the officer told BEI investigators he regretted backing up to his left instead of toward an exit route.
"He acknowledges that had he done that, the sequence of events may have had a different outcome," it said.
An autopsy determined Moore died of extensive injuries to the internal organs caused by gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.
"Ms. Chantel Moore's death, although deeply regrettable, was as a result of her being severely impaired by alcohol and combined with her actions, specifically exiting her residence brandishing a knife, steadily advancing upon Officer 1, who was restricted in movement by the confined space of the third-floor balcony and not responding to his clear orders to drop the knife," Wilbur, the Crown prosecutor, said at the conclusion of the report.
The police officer was taken off duty for three weeks before being put back on the job in an administrative role.
Moore's family considering next steps
T.J. Burke, a lawyer representing Moore's family, said in a statement that it has been a long year for the family as they waited for the results of the investigation.
"Now that we have more facts and a better understanding of the evidence, including personal statements by the intervening officer, we will examine our options with our client and determine our client's next steps," Burke said.
Moore was one of two Indigenous people shot and killed by police in New Brunswick last June.
Rodney Levi, 48, of Metepenagiag First Nation was shot and killed by RCMP on June 12, 2020, when they responded to a call for assistance about 30 kilometres southwest of Miramichi. Prosecutors opted not to charge the officer, determining that, based on the evidence, the officer acted lawfully.
The provincial government announced in the days after Moore's death that a coroner's inquest would be held. It is scheduled to start Dec. 6 in the Edmundston region.
A separate inquest is also scheduled in October to examine Levi's death.
Inquests are quasi-judicial and examine the circumstances of a person's death. A jury then issues recommendations on how to avoid similar deaths in the future.