The coroner’s inquest into the death of Brydon Whitstone heard testimony Tuesday afternoon from the passenger in the vehicle Whitstone was driving on Oct. 21.
Taking the stand was Amanda Wahobin, the sixth witness called during the weeklong inquest in Battleford.
Wahobin’s testimony was much anticipated, based on her earlier statements to police that suggested Whitstone might have willed his own death by a “suicide by cop.”
But under questioning Tuesday she seemed far less certain about that story, as she recounted the events leading up to that fateful evening of Oct 21, 2017.
Coroner’s counsel Tim Hawryluk asked the first round of questions. Wahobin confirmed she had been friends with Brydon Whitstone.
Wahobin had been staying in North Battleford on Oct. 21 and had seen Whitstone that day late in the afternoon. She had gone over to his house to visit with him and had been planning to go to a wedding.
Wahobin confirmed that she had been in the white four-door Buick LeSabre that day; she also confirmed that she knew the vehicle had previously been stolen. Only she knew initially, but later on she told Whitstone it was stolen.
She and Whitstone had been at a friend’s house that evening. After 7 p.m., she and Whitstone went to the downtown liquor store in the white LeSabre, where they purchased a 40 of Smirnoff vodka.
After that, they went to her place in North Battleford to look for an outfit for her to wear for the wedding. Whitstone was there to help her pick a dress, she testified.
They went outside on the steps, where she said Whitstone told her to stop using drugs and alcohol, offering support to her, and he also said he had wanted to move on from the gang life and move forward from it.
They also noticed outside that some police cars had been driving around the area.
The two then went to the home of Whitstone’s mother. Wahobin testified that while there, Whitstone took off three rings, a bracelet, and his watch, and told her he wanted her to keep them “in case something happens to me tonight.”
Hawryluk turned his questions toward someone called “Minnow.” Wahobin confirmed Minnow had the white LeSabre car earlier that day. Wahobin also said she did not know Minnow’s real name,
After 9 p.m., she and Whitstone left the residence and headed out again in the white LeSabre. They went up the back alley, but on 107th Street a cop police did a u-turn behind their vehicle and turned on its emergency lights.
Wahobin testified that at that point Whitstone said, “Are you ready, my minion?”
To Wahobin, that meant Whitstone “wasn’t going to stop.” It was an indication Whitstone was about to run from police.
The LeSabre then led police on a chase. The LeSabre vehicle T-boned a police vehicle and, said Wahobin, “did a 360,” at which point airbags went off. Whitstone put the vehicle in drive again, at which point they hit another vehicle.
Eventually the car came to rest at the 15th Avenue-105th Street location, in front of the Academy of Learning, surrounded by other police vehicles.
Police officers were around the vehicle at this point. Wahobin testified she didn’t recall police telling her to put hands up.
At this point, she recalled Whitstone putting the car in “reverse and drive.” Wahobin testified that right before the gunshots were discharged, Whitstone was putting his right hand onto his groin area and into his pants. She testified she heard the police yell, “He’s grabbing for something!”
At that point, she heard the first shot. Even after being shot, she said Whitstone was trying to get the car to start, putting the vehicle into “reverse and drive.”
Wahobin testified Whitstone was trying to “reach into his pants again” when he was shot a second time.
Hawryluk asked Wahobin if she had come to any conclusion about why Whitstone was putting his hand into his pants.
“What reason was there for him to do that?” he asked.
At this point, Whitstone family lawyer Mark Ebert stood to object, saying Wahobin “could not speak to Brydon’s motivation.”
Hawryluk was asked to rephrase the question.
“Do you believe his actions would likely solicit a reaction from the police officers?” Hawryluk asked.
But Wahobin seemed confused by the question as she responded, “What does that mean?”
Ebert stood to object again.
Hawryluk then asked Wahobin if Whitstone had something in his pants. Wahobin said no. Wahobin then confirmed Whitstone had no firearm that day.
Wahobin also testified she didn’t recall seeing Whitstone handle any bullets or consume bullets into his mouth.
Hawryluk asked whether Whitstone had talked to her about any “self-harm” prior to that, and Wahobin responded he had a month before. His baby had passed away, Wahobin said.
Hawryluk next focused on Regina Police Service’s interview with Wahobin. Wahobin testified she didn’t recall telling the officer that Whitstone had told her earlier that day that he wanted to die.
Wahobin had been drinking that day, she confirmed on the stand. She testified she was on her third glass of a mix drink, which had included vodka, pop and orange juice. Whitstone had been drinking as well, and that his mixes would have been stronger. She said she had not consumed any drugs that day, and said Whitstone hadn’t consumed drugs in her presence.
Lawyer Sean Sass, representing the RCMP, was next to ask questions, and his inquiries focused on the white car. Under questioning, Wahobin said she had known the white LeSabre was stolen because “Minnow” had told her it had been stolen. She also confirmed it was “Minnow” who had given her the keys.
Wahobin also confirmed Minnow had wanted the car back later, and that they were all going to go to the wedding together. Minnow had also told the two of them not to use the car in a certain area of the city because “he knew there were cops up there.”
A number of Sass’s questions drew objections from Ebert, who again voiced concerns about questions posed on Whitstone’s motivations.
Whitstone family attorney Stephanie Lavallee handled questioning next, and she began by asking Wahobin for clarification on her statement to police that she thought Whitstone had wanted to die.
Lavallee asked if Whitstone ever expressed wishes to die. Wahobin remembered one instance when someone else was mentioning how she wanted to die, and Whitestone had responded, “You’re the one who wants to die? ... If anything I want to die.”
Lavallee also seemed to poke holes into the theory that Whitstone was pretending to have a weapon. She suggested it “would be difficult to dig into pants when you’re wearing jeans” – pointing out Whitstone was wearing jeans that night.
Following some more questions from Lavallee, Wahobin left the stand.
The last witness of the afternoon was Matthew McKay, a rural RCMP member. His testimony provided a sense of terror, chaos and confusion experienced by RCMP members that night.
McKay was on duty patrolling the rural detachment, but testified he received a call in relation to a shooting incident involving a white vehicle.
Given the seriousness of the call, “we all respond,” he testified. McKay recalled he started at the area of Battlefords Union Hospital and went north, when he saw a vehicle that matched the description of the complaint.
He activated his emergency lights but the vehicle did not stop, and he got authorization to initiate the pursuit.
McKay testified he could not believe the carnage after the white LeSabre had collided with RCMP police vehicles. He had seen one of their own police vehicles “severely damaged” after the suspect vehicle broadsided it.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes” that the suspect vehicle was still operational, McKay testified. He testified he believed there was an officer down. McKay could see these “incredibly damaged” vehicles, and testified on the stand that he “believed one of his friends and colleagues were dead.”
He got out of his vehicle, drew his gun, and testified he decided to “go after the active threat.” By this time, many had converged on the scene, he said.
“There were many of us there,” he said.
At the scene, McKay testified that verbal commands were given of “stop, you’re under arrest, show your hands.” He said the message was consistent: to show your hands, stop, and get out of the car.
At one point he saw Whitstone’s hands on the wheel and then saw them drop off. He could also hear others say, “He’s reaching! Look out!”
When asked, “did you hear a shot?” McKay responded, “I did.” He also said it sounded like an RCMP pistol – “our” pistol, he said, which was “cold comfort.” Lavallee’s questions to McKay focused on the chase. McKay said that he “never before had seen something like it.”
Usually, the person is long gone in a shooting incident, but in this case the vehicle was still there, McKay testified.
There were also questions from Lavallee about McKay’s failure to wear a microphone that night as he headed towards the scene; McKay said his priority was on responding to “a clear and present danger to life.”
Testimony at the inquest was due to resume Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. The indication was that there would be six witnesses that day, all of them RCMP officers.