As seen on Peace Arch News by Tracy Holmes, 19th September 2019
‘I feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again,’ says mom.
Charges against the officer who shot and killed South Surrey’s Hudson Brooks four years ago have been dropped.
The B.C. Prosecution Service announced Wednesday that a stay of proceedings against Const. Elizabeth Cucheran has been entered on charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.
Hudson’s mom, Jennifer Brooks, told Peace Arch News the decision – shared with her shortly before – “makes me sick.”
“She gets away with nothing. She just walks away,” Brooks told PAN through tears.
“I just feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again.”
Twenty-year-old Hudson Brooks died July 18, 2015, after what police initially described as a physical struggle with a “suicidal” male outside of the South Surrey RCMP detachment, located in the 1800-block of 152 Street. The altercation also resulted in Cucheran being transported to hospital with a self-inflicted, non-life-threatening gunshot wound.
It was later confirmed that only police-issued firearms were found at the scene.
In the years that followed, Jennifer Brooks learned that her son had been shirtless and unarmed at the time he was shot, and that he was shot at close range. She and many others called repeatedly for charges, staging ‘Justice for Hudson’ rallies and marches.
Charges against Cucheran – who is currently on administrative leave – were announced in December 2017, and she was ordered to stand trial following a preliminary inquiry that wrapped up in Surrey Provincial Court last December.
In Wednesday’s news release, BCPS officials say “issues that arose” during the preliminary hearing led to further investigation and the determination “that the available evidence no longer satisfies the charge assessment standard for the continued prosecution of Cst. Cucheran for any criminal offence.”
The stay of proceedings was “based on a careful review of new material received and consideration of an additional expert report,” as well as consultation with several use-of-force experts, the release states.
In a nine-page ‘Clear Statement’ issued with the news release – “in order to maintain confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system” – the BCPS further details reasoning for the stay of proceedings, including that evidence that emerged in the preliminary inquiry “revealed significant shortcomings in the case against Cst. Cucheran.”
Crown’s initial theory had been that Cucheran was “not entitled to resort to lethal force as soon as she did” during the altercation with Brooks, and that she would have had time to use her Taser instead.
A summary of evidence that led to the initial charges details that Brooks was behaving erratically in the early hours of July 18, 2015, after consuming significant quantities of alcohol and cocaine; wandering the streets shoeless and wearing only boxer shorts, vandalizing vehicles and saying loudly “Kill me!” “They’re going to kill me!” and “Sorry, mom!”
He attacked an officer’s SUV, hammering at the driver’s door and window with his arms, hands, elbows, knees, shoulder and head, causing the officer to believe “he would be ‘severely injured, if not worse…’” if Brooks got in, the statement continues.
Cucheran was among officers who responded, eventually firing her gun 12 times at a “charging,” aggressive Brooks; nine of the bullets hit.
“While Cst. Cucheran may have had a subjective belief that lethal force was necessary, on the available evidence this belief was not objectively reasonable,” the statement says.
Evidence brought out during cross-examination at the preliminary hearing, however – including an expert’s opinion that Brooks was likely suffering from ‘excited delirium’ at the time – “provided significant context and objective support for a conclusion that Mr. Brooks posed an imminent risk of grievous bodily harm or death.”
Excited delirium refers to “a state of extreme mental and physiological excitement, characterized by extreme agitation, hyperthermia, hostility, exceptional strength and endurance without apparent fatigue,” the statement explains.
The changes in the evidence were “critical,” according to the statement.
“The Crown is now of the view that the evidence strongly establishes that (Cucheran’s) resort to her firearm was entirely reasonable in the circumstances.”
Jennifer Brooks – noting that evidence she heard at the preliminary hearing included that officers were making jokes “as my son lay dying” – returned to the scene of her son’s death Wednesday afternoon to reiterate her disbelief in the news and dispute the argument that excited delirium was reasonable justification for Cucheran’s use of force.
She said it sets a precedent for how others who experience similar distress can be treated.
“My son was having a bad night, he needed help, he got shot nine times,” Brooks said. “Excited delirium? No one’s had a bad night?
“This is sending a message that anybody can do this – you can shoot somebody nine times, a young boy, unarmed, without shoes or without a shirt, and you can walk away. That’s what this is showing today.
“It feels like they shot Hudson all over again… and now they can say his life doesn’t matter.”
Brooks said she will be seeking legal advice as a result of the stay-of-proceedings decision.
About the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society
‘In Their Name’ is the campaign of ‘The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society’ – a BC registered non-profit organization comprised of volunteer families who have lost a loved one to wrongful death in BC and were denied access to justice. In response to the biggest human rights issue facing the province today, our goal is to modernize British Columbia’s antiquated wrongful death legislation, which predates confederation (1846). Under current legislation, the value of a human life is measured only by the deceased’s future lost income, so long as they had dependents.
As a result of the province’s antiquated law, access to justice has been denied to the families of the wrongfully killed who do not meet this discriminatory criteria. This has affected especially vulnerable groups, namely children, seniors, the disabled, and anyone without dependents when they are killed by the negligent or intentional acts of another.
BC is presently the last of all the provinces, yet to have undertaken this critical legislative modernization to allow for dignity, value, and protections for all its citizens under the law.
When it’s ‘free’ to kill in BC, wrongdoers are not held accountable. This lack of general deterrence holds the province back in terms of incentivizing innovation of safety measures and protocols to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place.
Here’s How You Can Get Involved…
The Attorney General of British Columbia, David Eby, is the Minister responsible for the ‘Family Compensation Act’ – the guiding piece of legislation that the civil courts must follow in cases of wrongful death. Minister Eby receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, John Horgan.
Reform is presently at a standstill, as the BC NDP government does not presently view access to justice for the surviving family members of the wrongfully killed as a priority in this province. This is despite the fact that the families behind our Society have been fighting for modernization for over two decades. And despite the fact that all other provinces, including the Yukon, have already modernized in most cases long ago.
The only way to move this forward is by creating massive public awareness and outcry for legislative modernization. Only under the scrutiny of the public and the media will our politicians be forced to take this necessary, and long overdue action.
How many more people will need to die from the same preventable wrongful actions before our politicians will do their job?
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