Inquest hears witness accounts of night's events


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A map of witness accounts of the morning preceding McPherson’s death

Today in court, jurors at the inquest into the death of Larry McPherson shortly after his arrest heard accounts of the hours leading up to his arrest.

A former security guard for the Northern Grand hotel testified that at approximately 12:45am, he heard screams for help coming from the direction of the Cedar Lodge motel, as well as a loud bang. The witness testified that he saw a man he later identified as McPherson pulling at the locked doors of the Northern Grand hotel and yelling for help. The witness said he told McPherson that the doors were locked. The witness then reached for his radio to call for help, at which time McPherson began running south down 100th St. The witness then began searching the Cedar Lodge parking lot, as he had assumed that McPherson was screaming for help for someone in that area. The witness added that he thought McPherson was "stoned," but didn’t appear to have any difficulty running in a straight line.

The witness was then presented with autopsy photographs of McPherson showing injuries to his face, chin, wrist and legs. He was asked if he was able to see any of those injuries on McPherson during his encounter that night. The witness said he couldn’t recall seeing any injuries on McPherson that night, but added that it was quite dark at the time, and he was only able to catch a brief glimpse of the man’s face from the front.

The jury then heard from a taxi driver who witnessed the events from his cab, which was parked in front of the Cultural Centre, facing the Northern Grand. The witness said he saw a man he later identified as McPherson run from the Northern Grand area down 100th St while repeatedly screaming for help. The witness said he pulled up about 20 feet behind McPherson in his cab. The witness said McPherson noticed him, and so he slowed down and began to trail McPherson from about 100 feet back. It was from this vantage point that the witness said McPherson did not appear injured. He testified McPherson then ran to the Shell Station and used a squeegee from the station to beat against the glass front of the building. The witness said the attendant inside picked up the phone and began calling for help. He then testified that McPherson continued to run down 100th St., stopping to pick up a large rock and throw it through the window of Deb’s Flower Hut.

The witness said there was no apparent reason for McPherson to break the window, and that McPherson later picked up another rock and tried to break another window, but failed, all the while still yelling for help.

At this point the witness passed McPherson in his car and parked in the Stonebridge Hotel parking lot. It was at this point that Inquest Council Mitch Houg presented the witness with the same autopsy photographs presented to the first witness. The taxi driver said McPherson did not appear to have these markings as he was running down the street.

The witness then said that while he was parked in the Stonebridge lot he witnessed one officer arrive on scene and stand 20 feet from McPherson. He testified that McPherson was holding a rock and that the officer told him to drop it, and McPherson complied after a few seconds. The witness said McPherson stood for a second, then turned and ran towards the Alaska Highway, at which point the officer "tackled" him and put him in handcuffs. The witness then said that three other squad cars showed up and all the officers jumped on top of him. He testified, "I heard him yelling, ‘I’m not resisting!’ –heard that about 3,4 times." The witness then said the officers picked up McPherson face down and put him in the backseat of a squad car, only to remove him a few seconds later. He testified that McPherson then began to convulse, so one of the officers put a blanket over him. The taxi driver said an ambulance arrived shortly after for McPherson.

Attorney General representative Andrew Kemp then crossexamined the witness, suggesting his account of McPherson’s arrest contradicted with a statement he had given to police in the days after the death. Kemp read to the witness his statement that more than one police officer had been on the scene when McPherson had initially been arrested. The witness agreed that his earlier testimony had been correct.

Inquest Council Mitch Houg then asked on behalf of McPherson’s sister and mother, who were present at the trial, whether he felt the use of force was of an appropriate level. The witness responded, "In my opinion no, I couldn’t understand why they would do all that when he was on the ground and handcuffed." Houg also asked the witness if first aid was rendered by RCMP. The witness originally said no, but after Attorney General rep Andrew Kemp read aloud the witness’ original statement from 2007 in which he said that officers were "checking on him," the witness agreed that perhaps his original statement was more correct.

The inquest continues tomorrow, when the trial will hear from more witnesses. The inquest is expected to wrap up on Friday.