His window was smashed in with a baton. He was pepper sprayed in the face from just a few feet away. And when one large RCMP officer tried to pry him out of the car window by bending his extracted left arm along the side of the vehicle, he still put up a fight.
Brydon Whitstone rarely swayed from evading and disobeying police until an RCMP patrol member, worried the 22-year-old was reaching into his pants for a gun, shot and killed Whitstone, officers repeatedly told a coroner’s inquest this week.
“He never stopped with the motioning,” said Constable Marco Johnson. “I had to rip his hands off the steering wheel.”
“The driver never became cooperative,” said fellow Constable Greg Hugo.
Why? No one could answer. Witnesses at the inquest into Whitstone’s death could only offer potential clues.
Outside the Battleford, Sask., Court of Queen’s Bench building, Dorothy Laboucane was asked about her son’s seemingly tireless desire to get away that October 2017 night.
“My son was on conditions,” she said of the Onion Lake Cree Nation man. “He was on probation. He had a curfew. He had breached pretty much all the conditions.”
Amanda Wahobin, Whitstone’s girlfriend and the passenger in his car that night, echoed Laboucane.
Wahobin said that when Constable Matthew McKay spotted them and turned on his RCMP vehicle lights — because Whitstone’s white Buick matched the description of a car suspected of an earlier drive-by shooting — “Brydon said, ‘Are you ready, my Minion?'”
“It took off like a rocket,” said McKay of Whitstone’s car, which almost hit one civilian vehicle backing out of a driveway and later collided with two marked RCMP vehicles.
“He wouldn’t stop,” said Wahobin.
Someone other than Whitstone was eventually charged in connection with the drive-by shooting that, along with Whitstone’s refusal to stop, put him on a collision path with the RCMP that night.
A month and a half earlier, Whitstone’s newborn son and namesake, Brydon Jr., had died shortly after birth, Wahobin previously told CBC News.
At about the same time, Whitstone told Wahobin that he had wanted to die too, according to a previous statement that Wahobin was made to read out by a lawyer for the RCMP during the inquest.
A 22-calibre bullet was found by a pathologist inside Whitstone’s stomach after his death.
“The only way it could have gotten in the stomach is….basically by swallowing,” said Dr. Andreaa Nistor, who conducted Whitstone’s autopsy as an RCMP member and two officers with the Regina Police Service, which investigated the shooting, looked on.
According to urbandictionary.com, a crowdsourced online dictionary for slang words and phrases, “eating a bullet” is code for committing suicide.
Wahobin seemed to walk back the notion of Whitstone being suicidal when cross-examined by Stephanie Lavallee, one of two lawyers representing the Whitstone family.
And Laboucane and Albert Whitstone, Whitstone’s mother, have rejected the idea of their son wanting to end his life.
“I knew my son,” said Laboucane of the testimony that her son reached down near his pants, despite not having a weapon as armed officers ordered him out of the car.
Fight or flight
Whitstone was struggling with an addiction to methamphetamine, Ron Piche, a previous Whitstone family lawyer, had said.
Blood and urine samples taken from Whitstone after his death show a significantly high presence of methamphetamine, according to the RCMP toxicologist who testified during the inquest.
But Kimberly Young cautioned that the level of meth in a person’s system can actually increase after death, making it difficult to determine just how much of the drug was in a person’s system right before they died.
Still, “Meth is a central nervous stimulant,” said Young. “It takes a person and puts them in that fight or flight mode if they become scared or apprehensive of something happening in [their] surroundings.”
“That’s not to say everyone who takes a high level of meth will become psychotic,” she added.
It takes a person and puts them in that fight or flight mode.
– Toxicologist Kimberly Young on the effects of methamphetamine
Lavallee asked Young if meth could explain why Whitstone did not respond to repeated commands to surrender, such as the “Hands! Hands! Hands!” that Sgt. Pernell St. Pierre remembers being shouted at Whitstone as RCMP members had his car surrounded.
“I can’t really say that,” said Young.
Traces of olanzapine, a prescribed anti-psychotic drug used to treat bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia, was also found in Whitstone’s system.
He had some alcohol in his system, too, but below the legal driving limit, said Young.
‘Death is permanent’
Laboucane wants to remember her son the way he was before that night: “a fun-loving kid and loving father.”
She speaks Whitstone’s name to his two surviving children, Orianna and Merlin, to keep his memory alive.
“They speak of him as if he has just gone away and will come back. Children do not understand that death is permanent,” she said.