Four years after police in Summerside, P.E.I., fatally shot a man who had fled from them into a dark basement after committing a crime, his family is still seeking answers.
Jeremy Stephens was no angel. He had a long criminal record by the time of his death at 32, jailed mostly for break-ins but also for some drug offences and assaults as well. And his family says he had experienced mental health and addiction issues since he was a boy.
But on the surface of it, there was no reason for the police to follow him into the basement that night. There was no other person being menaced, according to an independent report on the incident. There was no evidence Stephens had a firearm. The family suggests officers could have waited him out, or found a non-lethal way to incapacitate him in the confined space.
Could his death have been prevented? Legal experts and family members alike think so. And they think a coroner’s inquest could delve into ways of preventing future deaths.
Click here for written version of Part 1: The path that led Jeremy Stephens from a childhood of loving animals and helping around the house to a darkened basement in Summerside. That’s where he sustained fatal wounds early one morning in May 2018, during a planned power outage affecting the whole city. WARNING: This story contains disturbing details, and a cellphone video of the basement where the fatal shooting took place.
Click here for written version of Part 2: What happened in the basement, according to a report from Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT). It was based on interviews with the police officers, search warrants, and third-party records — but not police recordings from the crucial time, since they were reported lost in the citywide power outage. WARNING: This story contains disturbing details and strong language, as well as an animated reconstruction of where the parties were located as the shooting unfolded.
Click here for written version of Part 3: Not waiting for a too-distant ambulance to arrive, Summerside police officers drove the wounded man 3.6 kilometres to Prince County Hospital in the back of a police car. There, medical workers would struggle with equipment issues and a lack of information from police as they tried — and failed — to keep Stephens alive. WARNING: This story contains disturbing details, and an animated graphic showing where Jeremy Stephens was wounded, according to the autopsy report.
Click here for written version of Part 4: Within months, an independent police watchdog investigation absolved the Summerside police of any wrongdoing. Elsewhere in Canada, if police are involved in a suspect’s death, a coroner’s inquest would still be needed despite such findings. Legal experts say a SIRT report answers only a question about responsibility — not preventability.