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Coroner's jury makes recommendations

Coroner's jury makes recommendationsGreg Matters is shown in an undated photo provided by his family.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - A coroner's jury looking into the RCMP shooting death of a former soldier wants to see emergency-response-team members trained in the use of non-lethal weapons and wear recording devices during confrontations.

Those are among nine recommendations made by the jury Thursday as an inquest closed into the death of Greg Matters.

The 41-year-old veteran was shot and killed by RCMP during a standoff in September 2012 outside the rural home near Prince George, B.C., that he shared with his mother.

The jury classified the death as a homicide, which carries no legal responsibility and doesn't imply fault, but its a finding that another person contributed to his death and intended to cause injury.

An emergency response team had been deployed to the house to arrest Matters for assaulting his brother.

A 15-year military veteran who served in Bosnia, he was in treatment at the time for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The jury made two recommendations specifically aimed at mental-health issues, including that a qualified mental-health professional be made available to ERT members during deployment situations.

"Mental health training be required for RCMP members and be completed within the first year of active duty," the recommendations stated. "Such a program would include ongoing training and requalification.

After four hours of deliberating, the jury has also recommended that:

— RCMP police dogs be training and utilized in apprehending armed subjects.

— RCMP cellphones issued and used during a critical incident have all data collected and preserved.

— ARWEN gun, or anti-riot weapon, be included in the RCMP's less-lethal weapons.

Two of the jury's recommendations were aimed specifically at the Minister of National Defence, the Canadian government and Veterans Affairs.

It called for programs to be developed to monitor the physical, emotional and financial health and well-being of all members of the Canadian Armed Forces — including veterans.

It also recommended adequate support and education for PTSD be made available to families and loved ones of members and veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Matters was shot in the back by a member of the RCMP emergency response team in the driveway of his home.

The inquest, which was originally scheduled for just one week, began in early October, was adjourned in December and resumed on Monday.

The seven men and women heard from 30 witnesses.

Matters was honourably discharged from the military in 2009.

The jury heard had several run-ins with police, beginning with RCMP in New Brunswick when he was based at CFB Gagetown. Matters said officers ultimately broke into his home and woke him at gunpoint on a purported "wellness check."

After returning to British Columbia, Matters' former therapist complained to police about threatening emails, and he was charged and acquitted of assaulting his brother.

He was jailed for threatening the head of the RCMP public complaints commission over the New Brunswick incident, and later threatened to kill the Crown lawyer in that case.

The jury also heard Matters was unable to work due to his mental health struggles and a back injury suffered in Bosnia in 2001.

He was living with his mother and surviving on a $123-a-month military pension when his sister, from her home in Australia, finally contacted an operational stress injury clinic in Vancouver that took him as a client.

The RCMP officers involved testified they were aware that Matters suffered from PTSD, yet a helicopter and a team of officers dressed in head-to-toe camouflage gear and armed with M16s were sent to arrest him.

Dr. Greg Passey, who operated the stress injury clinic and was treating Matters, testified that RCMP did not allow him to speak to the former soldier as he was surrounded by police in the hours before his death.

The jurors heard that Matters pleaded for help in the years prior to the standoff with RCMP.

A pathologist testified Matters was shot twice in the back — contrary to a public report released by the province's Independent Investigations Office, that cleared police of any wrongdoing.

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