‘I feel like my son was killed a second time’

Marney Mutch believes recommendations are not enough

‘I feel like my son was killed a second time’

For Marney Mutch, hearing the jury’s verdict into her son’s death was like learning he had died for a second time.

After a week-long coroner’s inquest into the death of 20-year-old Rhett Patrick Victor Mutch, the jury determined Rhett died as a result of a gunshot wound to the neck and classified his death as a suicide.

“I feel like my son was killed a second time,”said Marney, who was heartbroken and devastated by the verdict. “It ripped all the wounds wide open again. Had they (police) not come barrelling through the door, he would be alive today … It (the verdict) adds insult to injury.”

The inquest, which wrapped up late last week, included testimony from several witnesses including the 911 call taker who answered the call from Marney, the police dispatcher involved in the case, as well as the four officers who were inside the house when Rhett was shot.

The seven-person jury also released 12 recommendations that focus on police response for those in mental health crises, as well as expanding support for youth transitioning out of government care.

Recommendations include ensuring that online retraining for crisis intervention de-escalation is refreshed with new and relevant scenarios every two years, to consider a worn (bodycam style) automatic audio and/or audio visual device to assist and supplement the review of radio and/or cell phone records of events, and to have fully supported transition plans from child to youth to young adults, to 19 plus.

Marney believes the recommendations are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done, including mandatory toxicology testing for officers.

“If it’s mandatory that the victims are tested, we think it should also be mandatory that the police are,” she said.

On Nov. 1, 2014, police were called to the Marney’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.

After police arrived and repeatedly asked Rhett to put down the knife, he allegedly ran towards officers without warning. One officer shot him 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. He died shortly after in the ambulance.

In June of last year, 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.

Five months later, Marney launched a wrongful death lawsuit against the Victoria Police Department and the City of Victoria.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com