Marney Mutch’s home in James Bay is littered with framed photos of her son Rhett, but more than two years after his death, she can barely bring herself to look at them.
“Not a moment goes by when I don’t think about him. I can’t look at them (the pictures) straight because I’ll just crumble,” said Marney. “I can’t not think about him. Every waking moment he’s in my mind and I’m missing him incredibly.”
On Nov. 1, 2014, police were called to the Mutch’s home on Dallas Road, after Rhett entered the home, despite a court order that only allowed him to come by with his mother’s consent. According to an earlier report by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO), the body responsible for investigating all officer-related incidents that result in death or serious harm, Rhett had threatened to harm himself with a knife.
Marney called 911 and officers arrived on scene. Officers tried speaking with Rhett in the living room, repeatedly asking him to put down the knife.
Officers reported that without warning, Rhett ran towards officers with the knife. One officer shot Rhett once with a bean bag shotgun, which had no affect. Then another officer fired another shot from a .45 caliber firearm, striking Rhett in the neck.
Officers attempted to cover the wound to stem the bleeding, initiated CPR and called for an ambulance, said the report. Rhett died shortly after in the ambulance.
In June, the IIO cleared the officer who fired the fatal shot of any wrongdoing. However, the investigation found “significant” issues and concerns regarding officer tactics, primarily related to a basic lack of adequate communication amongst and between the officers involved.
However, the investigation wasn’t enough for Marney, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Victoria Police Department and the City of Victoria last week.
Marney painted a different picture of the young man who was shot and killed by police. She described Rhett as an old soul, sensitive and intuitive, who felt other people’s pain.
He would stay up late with his friends when they were sick or upset. He would be interested in their troubles and wanted to help them through their issues, and would often act as a big brother to the exchange students his mother helped house.
A lover of the restaurant Noodle Box, Rhett was also artistically talented, made plans to write a novel and go to medical school, Marney said.
Not a day goes by when Marney misses her only son and wishes she never made that phone call to police.
“It’s something I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life,” she said. “If I hadn’t made that call he’d still be alive. It’s a big burden to live with. I miss him everyday.”
In the document, Marney alleges her son was wrongfully killed by “negligent” officers, who failed to follow protocol in a use-of-force situation, that, had it been followed, would have not ended in her son’s death.
In the lawsuit, Marney is seeking damages for the wrongful death, as well as exemplary and punitive damages.
She further alleges the City of Victoria is “vicariously liable” for the actions of the officers.
“It’s not so much about the money as (they) robbed me of my only child,” she said. “(They) robbed me of parenthood and grandparenthood. There’s pain that I’ll never get over.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court. A statement of defence has not been filed.