BURNABY, B.C. — Disturbing footage showing the final moments of Mehrdad Bayrami’s life played out before a packed inquest chamber on Thursday as his daughter’s muffled sobs were the only sounds heard from the crowd.
A coroner’s inquest is looking into the fatal police shooting of Bayrami, 48, who was killed following a five-hour armed standoff with police outside a Lower Mainland casino in November 2012.
The role of a coroner’s inquest is not to assign blame for an incident but rather to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar events from occurring.
The jurors and a crowded public gallery watched the stark eight-minute video of the conclusion of what began as a police hostage-rescue operation and ended as a standoff after casino employees saw live security footage of a man threatening a woman with a handgun.
An agitated Bayrami, wearing a reflective vest, lifts a pistol in his right hand in the air and steps sporadically from side to side. Police wearing helmets and body suits can be seen in the background behind in armoured vehicle.
Moments after he begins backing up, Bayrami is shot. He doubles over and falls to the ground, clutching his stomach.
He writhes for several minutes before a police dog grabs his leg to pull him away from his gun. Officers close in and begin delivering first aid.
Delta Police Const. Jordan MacWilliams, who fired the shot that killed Bayrami, told the inquest he had been assigned the role of “lethal overwatch” for much of the event. During that time he was 100-per-cent focused on Bayrami’s face and gun, he said.
After hours of sitting on the ground, Bayrami suddenly rose to his feet and began pacing in widening circles, MacWilliams testified.
“I felt like he was deciding what to do, making his mind up about what he was going to do. … It was a huge change from over the previous hours,” he said, adding that Bayrami soon left the 20-metre containment radius police had set up for him.
“I saw him pointing the gun at us. I fired. The gun went down and he dropped to the ground.”
When asked by the coroner’s lawyer whether it might have been the case that Bayrami was standing up to stretch and “get the kinks out” after sitting for hours on cold asphalt, MacWilliams said “It’s possible, but you don’t walk towards a group of police officers with a gun in your hand to stretch out your joints.”
The inquest heard that at almost the same time Bayrami was fatally shot, he was also hit with four of five non-lethal shots fired from an anti-riot gun and that a flashbang explosive had also been used as a distraction.
MacWilliams was originally charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was later stayed.
Bayrami’s daughter filed a civil lawsuit against the officer and the City of Delta claiming he shot her father without warning or justification, but the lawsuit was later dismissed by consent from all parties.
Earlier in the day, the inquest heard from Const. Dave Ogilvy, who had been assigned as a sniper on a hill overlooking Bayrami.
Ogilvy told the inquest he was able to use the magnification scope on his weapon to read Bayrami’s lips, where it appeared to say “Shoot me, shoot me. Do it, do it.”
The inquest is scheduled to hear from more officers, medical professionals and Bayrami’s family before the jury begins deliberations on Tuesday.
— Follow @gwomand on Twitter
Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press
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