'I don't know what else I could have done': Police officers testify on first day of Geoff Morris inquest
An inquest into the death of a man who died after he was shot by a Regina police officer began Monday morning in Regina.
Geoff Morris died on May 4, 2019 after Regina police were called to the 1900 block of Halifax Street around 6 a.m.
Morris, 41, was found armed with two knives and holding a woman hostage, according to the Regina Police Service.
Police said one of the officers who responded to the call shot Morris and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
It was the first fatal police shooting in Regina since September 1998.
On Monday morning, a five person jury was selected for the inquest. Throughout the week, they will hear from people involved in the case.
A handful of Regina police officers spoke on Monday. Const. Aaron Robertson, who is part of the Regina Police Service’s Forensic Identification Unit, spoke first.
Robertson said he made the positive identification of Morris based on fingerprints. He took more than 500 photos and has preserved physical evidence from the scene.
He said nothing surprising was found regarding the firearm that was discharged by an officer. A carbine, which is a short-barreled lightweight gun, was used.
Const. Rylan Trithart was the second to speak. He was one of the first officers to arrive to the scene the morning of the incident, and was responsible for kicking down the door to where Morris was allegedly holding a woman with the knives. He said Morris refused to open it and he was worried for the woman’s life after hearing her scream.
“I heard this scream that I had never heard before. It just made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” Trithart said. “I was terrified of what was going on inside that room.”
He was not there when the gunshot that killed Morris was fired.
When Const. Jeremy Kerth spoke at the inquest, he said he saw Morris holding the knives at the woman’s face and throat area, so he drew his gun.
Kerth said he took the lead in talking to Morris, who did not listen to the commands. He said Morris said he would not go back to jail.
He said Morris would not let the woman go and that it was obvious they were in a domestic relationship. He said Morris said he was okay with suicide by cop.
“In my mind, he was talking about the end,” Kerth said.
He said there was a toddler in the apartment who officers were able to remove during the conversation.
Negotiators then showed up to the scene.
Kerth said Morris was acting erratic and grinding his teeth, which is often a sign that someone is under the influence of drugs. He said Morris appeared to be getting angrier and said he’d use the woman as a shield.
Kerth said Morris was praying before he was shot around 7:20 a.m. by Const. Sterling, who was standing to Kerth’s left.
Const. Sterling is scheduled to testify at the inquest on Tuesday.
After the gunshot hit Morris, Kerth said officers had to handcuff him to ensure he was not a threat to anyone else. They threw the knives into the corner of the room. EMS arrived at the door at that time.
During his testimony, Kerth was asked if during training, officers are told to handcuff a deceased person.
“At the time, I did not know he was deceased,” he explained.
Kerth said officers can use lethal force to save someone’s life. He said they all feel the woman’s life was in imminent danger.
“I don’t know what else I could have done,” he said. Kerth said this was his first standoff situation in his 12 years with the Regina Police Service.
Const. Tyrell Deibert, who is a member of the Regina Police Service SWAT team, spoke to the gun that was used. He explained that the corbine rifle is a last resort and added officers have to be specifically trained to use that specific firearm.
He said less lethal options weren’t possible in the situation because they aren’t as accurate. Deibert said less lethal shot guns can also provoke escalation.
Deibert said he was not in the room when the shot went off, but entered when Morris was being handcuffed and checked for his vitals.
“My assessment was Geoff was there to commit harm to the female to illicit police reaction,” Deibert said.
On Tuesday, more police officers are expected to address the jury and public attending the inquest.
The inquest will continue this week at the Atlas Hotel. Coroner Brent Gough is presiding.