Police officer who shot Hudson Brooks 9 times tells coroner's inquest she thought she was going to die
VANCOUVER -- The former Surrey Mountie who shot 20-year-old Hudson Brooks nine times in a 2015 altercation outside the South Surrey detachment told a coroner’s inquest into Brooks’ death on Tuesday that she was afraid for her life.
Elizabeth Cucheran, who has since left her job with the Surrey RCMP, testified about her response to a colleague’s call for help in the parking garage attached to the back door of the detachment.
That officer had been responding to a 911 call in the overnight hours of July 18, 2015, of a man who was seen wandering in the middle of the street near the detachment, and who Cucheran testified, “needed help.”
Cucheran told the inquest she heard the officer, who testified on Monday, scream, “I got him here. He’s coming directly at me,” before she exited the detachment into the parking garage.
“I saw Mr. Brooks pounding and wailing on the window (of my fellow officer’s SUV), and screaming, just screaming…'Kill you, kill you, kill me,'” Cucheran said.
Cucheran testified she was afraid her colleague was gravely injured or dead, and she couldn't see into the SUV.
She said she wanted to attempt to “distract” Brooks away from the vehicle, and was concerned Brooks, who a statement of facts previously released by Crown shows was only wearing boxer shorts, “may have had something in his left hand that (she) couldn’t see.”
The former constable told the inquest jury she drew her firearm, and the moment Brooks was aware of her presence, she testified, “he launched himself.”
In her testimony, Cucheran described “back pedaling” through the parking lot away from Brooks.
“I could not get away fast enough. I was trying to run backwards with my gun out, and eventually I realized he was actually screaming at me, 'Kill you, kill you, kill you, kill me,'” Cucheran testified.
“I remember thinking, 'I’m not going home tonight.' This guy is saying he wants to kill me…This guy has every intention of actually killing me.'”
Cucheran, who records show was also carrying a Taser, said she fired several shots with her gun, but Brooks continued to come at her.
Within 30 seconds of Cucheran’s exiting the detachment back door into the parkade, surveillance video shows her falling over backward over a low wall at the edge of the parking garage.
Cucheran testified how Brooks then "launched himself on top" of her.
“I am on the ground with my legs underneath him, and trying to push him off with my knees. I couldn’t use my hands because I was gripping my gun. I was like, 'This is it. I am going to die.' And I shot him again. I don’t know how many times I shot him on the ground,” Cucheran testified.
Her colleagues, she said, eventually dragged her out from underneath Brooks.
A summary of the facts provided by B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office, which investigated the officer-involved shooting, to Crown prosecutors, found that Cucheran fired her gun 12 times. Nine of those bullets struck Brooks.
Cucheran was charged with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in December 2017.
The charges were stayed nearly two years later, after an expert testified during a preliminary inquiry that Brooks was likely suffering from “excited delirium.”
Underlying causes, the BC Prosecution Service said in a 2019 news release, include illicit drug use or mental illness.
“The Crown is unable to prove that Const. Cucheran’s failure to use the Taser when Mr. Brooks initially attacked her resulted from or reflected any blameworthy conduct on her part,” the BCPS wrote.
“The Crown is now of the view that the evidence strongly establishes that resort to her firearm was entirely reasonable in the circumstances.”
Brooks’ mother, Jennifer, testified before the inquest on Tuesday, telling the jury, “To lose Hudson was like losing a limb. I cannot function or think.”
The inquest, which is scheduled to continue through Wednesday is designed to publicly review the circumstances of Brooks’ death.
According to the B.C. Coroner’s Service, jury members are tasked with fact-finding, rather than fault-finding, and may eventually provide recommendations how to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.