Inquest scheduled into 2016 deaths of two Granisle residents

The pair were killed in police-involved shooting

A public inquest has now been scheduled into the police-involved shooting deaths of two Granisle residents in April 2016.

To be conducted by the B.C. Coroners Service, the inquest into the deaths of Jovan Christopher Williams, 39, and Shirley Beatrice Williams, 73, is scheduled to begin June 15 at the Smithers Courthouse.

A 2018 report by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) concluded that an RCMP officer who took the shots which resulted in the deaths of the mother and son said he was forced to first when Jovan ran out the back door of their Granisle residence wearing an army helmet and tossed a Molotov cocktail and pointed a rifle toward the officer, and then again when Shirley came out with a shotgun and wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Officers first responded to the Williams residence April 21, 2016 after receiving reports of altercations between the two and local residents in which Jovan produced a handgun.

An RCMP Emergency Response Team was also called out in what was described as a “very high” risk level situation while attempting to have the pair surrender and exit the house. Those attempts ultimately failed.

“The balance of the evidence supports the conclusion [the officer] fired his rifle to protect himself from potential lethal force from guns being pointed at him,” reads a portion of the IIO report.

An inquest involving a jury is mandatory for any death that occurs while a person was detained by, or in the custody of, a peace officer. It is not a fault-finding process.

“The jury will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances. A jury must not make any finding of legal responsibility or express any conclusion of law,” reads the coroners office press release concerning the inquest.

“An inquest is a formal process that allows for public presentation of evidence relating to a death. The jury will certify the identity of the deceased and how, where, when and by what means death occurred.”

There were no witnesses to the actual shootings in the backyard by the officer, who was an emergency response team member and the last to arrive on scene after six officers arrived from nearby detachments. Other officers were surrounding the residence from other sides and the officer in charge was at a neighbour’s residence trying to speak to the pair in their home on Morrison Street.

According to the IIO report, approximately three months before the deaths, police were told of an altercation between the Williams and two local residents in which it’s alleged Jovan was assaulted and the Williams property vandalized.

One week before the deaths, the IIO report continued, it was reported that Shirley Williams encountered one of those people from the first incident, ultimately indicating he should not enter her yard or she would kill him.

On the day of the deaths, the IIO report indicated Jovan approached the person from the first incident, telling him to keep away from Shirley after which he produced a handgun, pointing it and the person and then pulling the trigger. The handgun did not go off. It was reported Jovan then struck the person with the butt of the handgun.

Police who were aware of the altercation and knew of the previous encounters then responded to the Williams residence. They also knew that Jovan owned a .22 calibre.

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