Inquest into shooting death of Matthew Roke

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Inquest into shooting death of Matthew Roke

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:12 pm

SIU clears OPP in Roke shooting

MAITLAND - The province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has cleared two Grenville County Ontario Provincial Police officers in the shooting death last month of 33-year-old Matthew Roke, noting in a report that the Maitland-area man lunged at one officer with a knife just before the shots were fired.

“In my view, the fatal shooting of Mr. Roke by the two subject officers was justified in law,” SIU director Ian Scott said in his decision, released Wednesday afternoon.

Roke's father, John Roke, said yesterday the family will now do all it can to initiate a coroner's inquest in the hope of preventing such a tragedy from ever happening again.

Roke, who suffered from schizophrenia, was fatally shot following a confrontation with members of the Grenville County OPP near the carpool lot adjacent to the Highway 401 ramps at the Maitland interchange early in the morning of May 2.

The SIU, an arm's-length agency that investigates incidents involving police resulting in death or serious injury, assigned four investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the Maitland shooting.

There were two subject officers in the case, whom the SIU will not identify. One of the officers consented to an interview with the SIU and provided a copy of his duty notes, while the other declined, as is his legal right.

The investigation also included five witness officers and 21 civilian witnesses. SIU spokesman Monica Hudon confirmed two of those 21 witnesses were in a school bus that was in the area at the time of the shooting.

The other witnesses were people who were able to provide information about what happened in the hours leading to Roke's death.

The agency's report describes a disturbing sequence of events leading to the tragic conclusion.

Shortly after midnight, Roke's parents called 911 to report that their son had psychiatric issues and had just threatened to kill them with a knife.

The dispatcher sent four OPP officers from the Prescott detachment to the family residence on Second Concession Road – including both subject officers. They were unable to locate Roke and left the area shortly before 6 a.m.

After 6 a.m., Roke`s mother called 911 again to report her son was back at the front door.

The same four officers returned to the home and found Roke sitting on the steps of his parents’ home with his hands in his pockets.

Because they knew Roke may have been armed, the officers drew their handguns. One officer told Roke to show his hands and to put any knife he had on the ground, but “Roke made it clear that he did not intend to comply,” the report states.

Roke then stood up and displayed a metal knife at the officers. The officers continued to tell him to drop the knife.

One of the officers deployed pepper spray, but it proved ineffective.

Roke began to walk quickly westbound on Second Concession Road toward County Road 15, with the officers trailing behind him and continuing to “implore him to drop his weapon,” notes the SIU.

“When Mr. Roke was about 25 feet ahead of the officers, he turned around, and shouted words to the effect of 'I hate f**** cops, just shoot me!' and moved toward the officers. He stopped when he was roughly 15-20 feet away from the officers, made some threatening remarks and then moved forward in an aggressive manner toward one of the subject officers,” the report continues.

“Mr. Roke lunged at the officer, while making underhanded spearing motions with his knife. Both subject officers discharged their firearms – one fired three times, and the other fired twice.”

Of the five bullets fired, one hit Roke in the left thigh, a second in the right leg and two struck him in the right side of his chest, causing his death, the SIU concludes.

Scott's ruling notes the officers already knew the pepper spray had proven ineffective and neither of the subject officers was equipped with a taser.

“This scenario in my view satisfies the Criminal Code provisions justifying the use of lethal force,” notes Scott.

He adds it is unclear which officer fired the fatal shot, but one of them “reasonably feared for his life” while the other “could have reasonably feared for the safety of his partner.”

Insp. Paul Bedard, the Grenville County detachment commander, was unavailable for comment.

Sgt. Paul Bisson, the community sergeant for Prescott, had just seen the SIU report when reached for comment.

“I was happy to see that the matter was resolved fairly quickly and that the officers were cleared,” said Bisson.

Roke's father, John, said two SIU investigators visited their home early Wednesday afternoon and told him, his wife, Jody, and their son, Isaac, the details of the ruling.

John Roke said the family is hesitant to comment on the details of the report because they now hope to see the matter referred to a coroner's inquest.

Hearing those details was difficult for the family, he said, but knowing exactly what happened after their son left the home also provides a measure of comfort.

“We were just before surmising and assuming things, and now the report has come out, now we know. It's in that way a relief,” he said.

“We didn't know what happened beyond our house.”

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Call inquest, Roke family asks

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:12 pm

MAITLAND - News that the province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has cleared two Ontario Provincial Police officers in the shooting death of their son actually came as a relief to John and Jody Roke.

Had there been charges going forward against the officers, they said Thursday, it would have delayed the work of getting a coroner's inquest called into the tragedy, with a view to changing the mental health system they say failed their son, Matthew.

“We just hope that good things come out of this,” said Jody Roke.

“Now, we can work towards changing the system to the best of our abilities.”

The acting regional coroner said Thursday his office is looking into calling an inquest into the tragedy, but needs more information before making a decision.

Matthew Roke, 33, who suffered from schizophrenia, was fatally shot following a confrontation with members of the Grenville County OPP near the carpool lot adjacent to the Highway 401 ramps at the Maitland interchange early in the morning of May 2.

The SIU, which looks into incidents involving police that result in death or serious injury, announced Wednesday it has cleared the two OPP officers who shot Roke, saying one officer feared for his life, while the other feared for the safety of his partner. The SIU investigation revealed Roke lunged at the officer while making underhanded spearing motions with his knife.

“When those police officers shot Matthew that day, we prayed for them,” said Jody Roke.

She said learning the details of the incident convinced her the officers were protecting themselves.

“They tried their best not to have to do that,” she added.

“The thing is that it shouldn't have got that far.”

The Rokes are hesitant to point a finger of blame at anyone, but say the mental health system in general failed them, and a coroner's inquest could help achieve the changes needed to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

In particular, the family repeatedly ran up against a system that does not allow caregivers to compel patients to take medication against their will, and does not act decisively unless people are a threat to themselves or others.

The night he threatened his mother with a knife, setting in motion the sequence of events leading to his death, Matthew had been agitated all day by a belief that his mother had left for a few days to arrange to have him placed in a group home in Southern Ontario, the Rokes said.

That was not the purpose of his mother's absence, although the Rokes did try to have Matthew put in a group home earlier, only to have him refuse, they said.

The home they had in mind was Homestead Christian Care, which has facilities in Woodstock and Hamilton that provide for more independent living for people with mental illness, said the Rokes.

Were such a facility to exist in this area, closer to home, they believe, Matthew would have been less resistant to the idea.

Making more resources available and putting fewer limits on intervention to help those who can't help themselves are two key reforms the Rokes hope to achieve through a coroner's inquest into their son's death.

Another is getting mental health professionals more closely involved in responding to incidents such as the one involving their son.

They would also like to see changes to police procedures involving tasers. The SIU notes neither of the subject officers was equipped with a taser, and the Rokes believe that option would have allowed them to subdue Matthew without killing him.

OPP Sgt. Kristine Rae, the force's East Region spokesman, said the Police Services Act currently specifies which officers can carry tasers and does not allow regular constables to carry them.

She would not comment at length on why there was not a taser-armed officer responding to the Roke incident.

Grenville County is a large area and the officer with the taser may have been far from the scene on another call, she noted.

“To say who was on duty when the call came and where they were, you can't guess on that,” said Rae.

The officers who responded were the same who had gone to the Roke house hours earlier and they were familiar with the matter, noted the sergeant.

The OPP would be happy to co-operate with any coroner's inquest should one be called, added Rae.

Dr. Peter Clark, who is filling in for the area's regional supervising coroner, Dr. Roger Skinner, said the office is aware of the case.

“We'll certainly look at the circumstances surrounding the death” to determine whether an inquest is warranted, said Clark.

“Serious consideration will be given to that.”

The regional coroner's office still needs more information before making that decision, said Clark.

“We don't want to do something if it doesn't need to be done, and if if does need to be done, we're all over it.”

SIDEBAR

INQUEST NECESSARY: CMHA

A coroner's inquest into the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Matthew Roke is necessary, says the executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Leeds and Grenville branch.

“It certainly gives an opportunity of analysis, in its entirety, of all that transpired,” Colin Slack told The Recorder and Times Thursday.

Slack said now that the SIU investigation has concluded, it’s “very appropriate” to request an inquest into Roke’s death.

While the SIU probe was focused on how the police acted and why, the agency does not ask broader questions about what could have been done to prevent the incident. A coroner's inquest “broadens the field,” noted Slack.

At the root of the kind of scenario that led to Roke’s death is a funding imbalance, Slack said.

Meanwhile, the shooting has undermined the confidence of people with mental illness and their families in the system, said Slack.

“I've had a significant number of calls from families saying: 'I'm concerned. Is this the way that my son or my daughter or whatever is going to end up?'”

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Inquest announced in Roke death

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:14 pm

The regional coroner's office will hold an inquest into the death of Matthew Roke, who was killed in a confrontation with Ontario Provincial Police officers in May 2012.

Dr. Louise McNaughton-Filion, the Regional Supervising Coroner for the East Region's Ottawa Office, announced the inquest Wednesday afternoon.

Roke, 33, who suffered from schizophrenia, was fatally shot following a confrontation with members of the Grenville County OPP near the carpool lot adjacent to the Highway 401 ramps at the Maitland interchange. The incident happened early in the morning of May 2, 2012.

Dr. McNaughton-Filion's statement said an inquest is mandatory under the Coroners Act.

The inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding Roke's death and the jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths, it added.

The date, location and presiding coroner have yet to be announced.

Roke's father, Rev. John Roke, said he and his wife, Jody, are relieved at the news.

“We were hoping that an inquest would happen,” he said.

“We're actually looking forward to it in some ways in order to address some issues that we saw at that time.”

“We were kind of concerned, when we didn't hear from anyone for such a long time, that they may have dropped it.”

The inquest will give the family a chance to hear directly from the two OPP officers involved in the incident, said John Roke.

“It'll certainly impact us emotionally, but it'll be interesting for us to hear what they have to say, too,” he said.

While Roke understands the officers were faced with a “confrontational situation” on that morning, he also believes the OPP “kind of escalated the situation here with their approach.”

While he accepts the officers did not know what was going through his son's mind when they entered the situation, Roke believes a mental health professional should have been present at the incident to calm Matthew down.

Also, neither of the subject officers was equipped with a Taser, and the Rokes believe that option would have allowed them to subdue Matthew without killing him.

Roke believes some progress may have been made when the Ontario government last summer allowed police to expand the use of Tasers in the wake of the fatal shooting of teenager Sammy Yatim on a Toronto streetcar

Other concerns Roke hopes to have addressed at the inquest involve families' difficulties in navigating the mental health system, in particular when it intersects with the justice system.

Matthew was released from a psychiatric hospital without input from his immediate family, a problem his father also hopes will be addressed at the inquest.

The Rokes also had difficulty getting help for Matthew when it was needed, said John Roke, who hopes that, too will be dealt with by the inquest.

In June 2012, the province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which looks into incidents involving police that result in death or serious injury, cleared the two OPP officers who shot Roke, saying one officer feared for his life, while the other feared for the safety of his partner.

The SIU investigation revealed Roke lunged at the officer while making underhanded spearing motions with his knife.



TRAGIC SEQUENCE

Here is how the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) report on the police shooting of Matthew Roke describes the tragic incident:

Shortly after midnight, Roke's parents called 911 to report that their son had psychiatric issues and had just threatened to kill them with a knife.

The dispatcher sent four OPP officers from the Prescott detachment to the family residence on Second Concession Road. They were unable to locate Roke and left the area shortly before 6 a.m.

After 6 a.m., Roke's mother called 911 again to report her son was back at the front door.

The same four officers returned to the home and found Roke sitting on the steps of his parents' home with his hands in his pockets.

Because they knew Roke may have been armed, the officers drew their handguns. One officer told Roke to show his hands and to put any knife he had on the ground, but “Roke made it clear that he did not intend to comply.”

Roke then stood up and displayed a metal knife at the officers. The officers continued to tell him to drop the knife.

One of the officers deployed pepper spray, but it proved ineffective.

Roke began to walk quickly westbound on Second Concession Road toward County Road 15, with the officers trailing behind him and continuing to “implore him to drop his weapon.”

“When Mr. Roke was about 25 feet ahead of the officers, he turned around, and shouted words to the effect of 'I hate f**** cops, just shoot me!' and moved toward the officers. He stopped when he was roughly 15-20 feet away from the officers, made some threatening remarks and then moved forward in an aggressive manner toward one of the subject officers," the report continues.

“Mr. Roke lunged at the officer, while making underhanded spearing motions with his knife. Both subject officers discharged their firearms – one fired three times, and the other fired twice.”

Of the five bullets fired, one hit Roke in the left thigh, a second in the right leg and two struck him in the right side of his chest, causing his death, the SIU concludes.

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Inquest a "relief"

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:16 pm

It's a tragic situation that happens far too often, but Colin Slack hopes an inquest into the death of a local mentally ill man killed by police will finally get lawmakers' attention.

Slack, the executive director of the Leeds and Grenville chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said Thursday he plans to apply for standing at the inquest.

“Persons with mental health issues who are engaged in confrontations with police, unfortunately, too often end up victims of tragic circumstances,” said Slack.

The regional coroner's office announced Wednesday it will hold an inquest into the death of Matthew Roke, who was killed in a confrontation with Ontario Provincial Police officers in May 2012.

Roke, 33, who suffered from schizophrenia, was fatally shot following a confrontation with members of the Grenville County OPP near Maitland. The incident happened early in the morning of May 2, 2012.

The inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding Roke's death and the jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.

The date, location and presiding coroner have yet to be announced.

Dr. Louise McNaughton-Filion, the regional supervising coroner for the East Region's Ottawa office, who is in charge of the file, was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Staff at her office said further information on the inquest was unavailable Thursday. The timing of such processes varies case by case.

Slack, whose agency has provided support to the Roke family, has long been calling for a coroner's inquest into the matter.

“We really needed to move on this in deference to the family's needs,” he added.

Chief among Slack's concerns, should he get standing at the inquest, is the number of similar incidents across Canada that have failed to lead to reform.

“There's a commonality in recommendations in coroners' inquests going back several years,” said Slack.

However, authorities have yet to take sufficient action to implement those recommendations, he added.

Some of those common recommendations include increased training of police officers in mental health and addictions issues.

Leeds and Grenville police are ahead of the curve in that department, Slack believes. However, he would like to see such initiatives made mandatory and more frequent.

“It's the old 'practice makes perfect' adage,” said Slack.

He would also like to see this inquest lead to increased latitude for officers to use “alternative measures.”

“Time needs to be the first one,” said Slack, noting officers need to be take more time at such situations to “utilize their de-escalation skills.”

The use of Tasers, although a “last resort,” remains a better option than guns, he said.

Slack also hopes the inquest will lead to a beefing up of rules governing community treatment orders. At the moment, they can be used to make it easier to apprehend mentally ill individuals at risk of offending, but they remain “too voluntary,” he said.

Matt's mother, Jody Roke, said she agrees with Slack's comments. However, she would also like to see changes that lead to a “more caring” mental health system.

“We were everywhere, always on the phone, looking for help for Matt and everybody had a reason why they couldn't help us,” she said.

“Nobody took us, as his parents, his major caregivers, seriously.”

Roke understands the mental health system is “overloaded,” but stressed it must be reformed.

“I don't know what it is, but I'd like to get to the bottom of it and get some things done,” she said.

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Emotional testimony opens Roke inquest

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:18 pm

Two of the four officers on scene when provincial police shot Matthew Roke gave emotional testimony during the first day of an inquest into the 33-year-old schizophrenic man’s death.

ON THE PHOTO: The four Ontario Provincial Police constables involved in the May 2012 call to the Matthew Roke incident leave St. Lawrence College after the first day of the inquest into Roke's death last week. From left are Jason Sparks, Michael Wraight, Francis Robitaille (with phone) and Vince Oickle. (ALANAH DUFFY/The Recorder and Times)

Ontario Provincial Police officers Vince Oickle and Jason Sparks, both of whom did not fire shots during the incident, said Tuesday they were fearful of Roke’s intentions on the fateful morning of May 2, 2012.

“He was taking an aggressive stance...Matthew had the knife in his left hand and it was raised,” said Oickle, a six-year veteran of the OPP’s Grenville County detachment.

“We didn’t want it to end the way it did. We just wanted to bring him to the hospital.”

Oickle, who at points broke down on the witness stand, said he did not fire his weapon because he was fearful of the shot hitting a nearby fuel tanker truck.

He testified Roke, armed with a steel knife that had holes in it, was lunging at the officers, screaming, “I f**king hate cops. F**king shoot me. Kill me.”

Sparks, who had been a police officer for only a year-and-a-half prior to the shooting, had tried to pepper spray Roke before the confrontation that led to Roke’s death, but the spray dissipated and did not hit Roke.

Sparks was directing traffic a few minutes later, when he heard shots fired.

“I could hear some muffling and yelling happening,” Sparks said.

The two officers who did fire shots, constables Michael Wraight and Francis Robitaille, are expected to testify Wednesday.

Three 911 calls made by Roke’s parents, John and Jody, were played on the first day of the inquest.

Jody Roke first called 911 after midnight on the morning of May 2. She told the dispatcher she was sleeping when her son burst into her bedroom with a knife.

“My son, he’s trying to kill us with a knife. He’s trying to stab us,” Jody said in the call.

“I was sleeping and he just ran in, grabbed me by my clothes and yelled, ‘You rat.’”

John, who was downstairs working on his laptop at the time, ran to a neighbour’s house and called 911 from there.

He told the dispatcher his son had a steel knife and this was the worst episode the Rokes had experienced with him.

“I told the police a long time ago to pick him up and take him away. They won’t listen,” John said in the 911 call. The inquest also heard about other run-ins Roke had with police, which included an assault on a store clerk.

Officers responded to the call just after midnight and were in the neighbourhood until after 4 a.m., searching for Roke with a K9 unit.

The Rokes called 911 again just after 6 a.m., to say their son had returned and was pacing and smoking a cigarette on the front porch.

Roke ran when officers returned with firearms drawn, beginning the confrontation that led to his death.

The inquest also heard the closest OPP officer with a Taser was at the Leeds County detachment. At the time, only sergeants were allowed to carry the conducted energy weapons, and the Grenville County sergeant was in Kemptville. An officer armed with a Taser from Leeds OPP arrived a few minutes after Roke had been shot.

The coroner’s inquest, taking place at St. Lawrence College, is expected to last two weeks. The five-member jury has been tasked to examine the circumstances around Roke’s death and make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future. Dr. Roger Skinner and his counsel, lawyer John Semenoff, are leading the inquest.

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Firearm justified, experts tell inquest

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:24 pm

Police officers who shot and killed Matthew Roke on May 2 2012 when he was suffering a schizophrenic episode near his family home in Maitland were following proper procedure, a coroner’s inquest heard Wednesday.

Ontario Police College instructors Ron Hoffman and Paul Bonner told the hearing at St. Lawrence College that lethal force is justified against a person threatening to harm others.

“If an officer believes his life or the life of someone else is in danger, he is justified using whatever force is available to protect themselves,” said Hoffman.

“It’s not a lack of compassion, but the fact they have a mental health problem is secondary.”

Added Bonner: “When you approach someone who has a weapon, it’s best to keep a distance and take out a firearm if you can’t keep control of the situation.”

Hoffman and Bonner were called as expert witnesses on police protocol, especially as it pertains to people with a mental illness, and their testimony took up most of the day’s proceedings.

Hoffman has a particular interest in mental health issues and has authored policy reports used by the Ontario Provincial Police and police forces in the United States and Australia for dealing with such situations.

He has developed lesson plans and co-ordinated training at the police college as new standards were introduced for mental health incidents in the 1990s.

Hoffman said officers are taught to deescalate mental health situations where possible and to contact family or health-care providers to help diffuse the potential for a violent confrontation.

Ultimately, though, an officer has to react to situations they are facing. Often the act of drawing a pistol by itself will help deescalate a tense situation, he added.

“Use of force is more complicated than it appears. The policy model does not tell an officer what to do but it helps them understand the standards in place and to articulate the why they reacted with a use of force (if it was necessary.)”

Bonner provides use-of-force training at the college, where mental health scenarios are presented to new recruits and to veteran on refresher courses.

Officers are instructed to determine the type of behaviour they are seeing in a mentally-ill person and whether they are compliant and co-operative. If not, drawing a firearm may be necessary to keep an agitated person at bay, said Bonner.

Pepper spray is not recommended in a volatile situation where someone has a knife because it has to be used at close quarters and an aggressive person can close ground quickly and cause injury.

OPP constable Vince Oikle testified at Tuesday’s opening session that he attempted to pepper spray Roke during the confrontation but the substance dissipated without effect.

Tasers have similar drawbacks, according to another witness, OPP Sgt. Steve Tavares, who provides use-of-force training to officers.

“In some situations it would be a great tool,” said Tavares.

But in a confrontation like the one in question when police are being threatened by a man waving a knife, a Taser may not help.

Tavares said two needle probes from the weapon have hit a suspect to take effect.

“If I was to miss, somebody’s life is in jeopardy.”

No Tasers were available on any of the four officers who responded to the 2012 incident.

Tavares said the weapons have since become standard issue and all OPP officers will be equipped when on duty.

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Cops defend firing on Roke

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:26 pm

A pair of Prescott provincial police officers who fatally shot a 33-year-old Maitland man during a schizophrenic episode two years ago say they followed their training and believe they had no alternative.

ON THE PHOTO: The four Ontario Provincial Police constables involved in the May 2012 call to the Matthew Roke incident leave St. Lawrence College after the first day of the inquest into Roke's death last week. From left are Jason Sparks, Michael Wraight, Francis Robitaille (with phone) and Vince Oickle. (ALANAH DUFFY/The Recorder and Times)

Constable Michael Wraight said he fired two shots at Matthew Roke who lunged his way with a knife on the Second Concession at Maitland about 7 a.m. on May 2, 2012.

Wraight said Roke was yelling obscenities and taunting police as they shadowed him during a short “slow jog” from the steps of his home to the County Road 15 intersection, past a school bus and early morning traffic.

“I don’t think we ever had the option to direct him in any way. He was to a certain degree, dictating our movement,” said Wraight.

Roke was not responding to officers’ entreaties to drop his weapon to avoid a deadly outcome.

“There was no magic phrase. I wanted him to put down the knife and I did everything I could but he just wasn’t responding.”

Wraight said police hoped to contain Roke, who was considered dangerous after holding a knife to the throat of his mother shortly before midnight and eluding an elaborate overnight search before returning home after police left.

He was willing to “walk all the way to Brockville” if it would allow for an emergency response unit – already dispatched – to get to the scene but he was forced to respond to Roke’s attack.

Asked by jurors if officers could have circled Roke and then tackled him, Wraight said that would be a dangerous action.

“I am not going to tackle a guy with a knife.”

Roke was armed with a five-inch knife that had a serrated tip but police are trained to avoid physical involvement with a man holding any “edged weapon,” from a box-cutter to a sword, said Wraight.

“The damage that somebody could inflict with a knife...you never go hands-on.”

Const. Francis Robitaille, who shot three times when Roke lunged at Wraight, told the five-member jury officers are trained to shoot for the chest when faced with a life-threatening situation.

He rejected a jury suggestion police should fire a warning shot or aim for an arm or a leg.

A shot could miss, strike a suspect but not stop his progress or cause a life-ending wound even at those targets, he said.

Robitaille was less sure about the potential difference a Taser would have made.

At the time the weapon was only issued to sergeants and special units – who were en route but failed to arrive in the time it took for the altercation to occur – but

Tasers are now being supplied for all on-duty officers, and Robitaille has trained on them.

“Do I believe it would have changed anything? I ask myself that all the time,” he said.

Robitaille told the jury it would help for police to have access to medical records to help them shape a response to an urgent mental health call.

He understands the privacy issues but also recognizes the information would benefit the police.

Week one of the inquest winds up Friday at St. Lawrence College, with testimony expected from Roke’s parents, the Rev. John and Jody Roke, as well as a pathologist.

Week two will include testimony from health-care and mental health-care professionals about services available to reduce the risk of confllct between police and people with mental afflictions.

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Resources, tactics questioned at inquest

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:31 pm

A portrait of a troubled young man and a family frustrated by a flawed mental health system emerged on the fourth day of an inquest into a fatal OPP shooting two years ago at Maitland.

Jody Roke, mother of 33-year-old Matthew Roke who was killed during a psychotic episode May 2, 2012 when he threatened police with a knife, said the family needed guidance to help a son “who never accepted he had schizophrenia.”

“I just wanted him to get the help he needed,” said Jody Roke, who remained composed through close to three hours of often grim testimony.

Matthew Roke was diagnosed in 2004 and was in and out of a mental health care system for 10 years, sometimes willingly and other times without his consent.

When he was on medications Matthew was a valued employee with a good sense of humour, she said.

But when he refused treatment her son's paranoia ran amock and the family was left isolated and stressed out.

“It's everything you can do sometimes not to have your own psychotic episode,” she said.

Matthew was in a downward spiral for months before the fatal encounter in 2012, including an arrest in January that year for breaking into a neighbouring apartment during an attack of paranoia.

Even then, he was released back into the community and returned to the family home where he continued to refuse his medications.

Ultimately, Matthew's parents kicked him out of the house in hopes he would realize he needed help and to afford themselves a rest from his nights of prowling and guarding the house against imagined enemies.

Instead, it led to the fateful encounter with police who were called to the home after he threatened his mother with a knife.

Jody Roke said the episode actually gave her hope that the police could now arrest him over the threatening behaviour and insist he get the treatment he needed.

“In the long run, Matt was a danger to himself and others long before then,” she said.

Matthew fled the home and avoided a comprehensive police search of the area, only to return just before 7 a.m. after a squad car on duty to guard the home left for a shift change.

When they called police again, they were told to lock the door to keep Matthew out of the home, something Jody regrets in hindsight.

“I can't guarantee anything, but if I would have taken a coffee out to him on the porch, I think he would be alive today. I wish I had never locked the door.”

She said she watched as police returned and confronted her son with pistols drawn and Matthew's refusal to heed their orders to put down the knife and go to his knees.

“I saw his face and then I couldn't watch anymore. I knew he was in trouble and I sat down. I couldn't look.”

Jody Roke is an education assistant for special needs students and suggested the training she has taken to avoid confrontations may be worth considering for police in similar situations.

“I understand none of these students has an edged weapon but it is a different way to approach them and it works,” she said.

Instead of getting out of their cruisers with weapons drawn, there may have been a better outcome if they had approached the situation differently.

“They shoud have said, 'Have you calmed down, Matt? Can we talk? Possibly, that might have worked.”

A five-member jury is tasked with making recommendations based on the inquest for handling of mental health crises.

http://www.recorder.ca/2014/04/26/resou ... at-inquest
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Roke refused to take meds

Postby Thomas » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:33 pm

A young Maitland man shot dead by OPP officers during a mental health crisis on May 2, 2012 responded well to treatment but was reluctant to remain on his medications, a psychiatrist who saw Matthew Roke months before his death told an inquest Monday.

ON THE PHOTO: The four Ontario Provincial Police constables involved in the May 2012 call to the Matthew Roke incident leave St. Lawrence College after the first day of the inquest into Roke's death last week. From left are Jason Sparks, Michael Wraight, Francis Robitaille (with phone) and Vince Oickle. (ALANAH DUFFY/The Recorder and Times)

Dr. Jeffrey Jackson began treating the 33-year-old Roke after he was brought to Brockville General Hospital on Jan. 31, 2012 following an assault on a store clerk.

Roke was diagnosed in 2006 with paranoid schizophrenia, a severe mental illness caused by an excess of dopamine that causes thought disorders not rooted in reality, said Jackson.

During his treatment, Jackson said Roke expressed fear of losing control over his life and showed signs of paranoid delusions such as an irrational fear of electronic devices and cameras he thought were spying on him.

“You have a thought that people are out to harm you, there's a conspiracy to hurt you, which is what Matthew had,” said Jackson.

Historically, Roke responded well to the drug risperidone and was receptive to taking it over other alternatives raised during discussions about his ensuing treatment, said Jackson.

Even so, Roke often resisted any treatment or only took half doses while being assessed at the former Elmgrove acute care psychiatric unit, then operating at the Brockville Mental Health Centre and since transferred to the Brockville General Hospital, effective March 31.

When he was taking the drug, Roke earned on-site privileges to have a cigarette – one of several addictions – on the grounds within sight of the Elmgrove facility.

But he abused that privilege on several occasions, including one time when he went home to drink alcohol, to which he was also addicted, said Jackson.

On another leave of absence, he assaulted his father who refused to fork over money for booze, said the doctor.

Eventually, Roke was held in secure isolation because of his antics and began to take his medication again.

“He didn't like to stay in that room so by the morning he was calm, co-operative and coherent. This is the start of negotiations: You work with us and we'll give you some freedom,'” said the doctor.

Jackson will continue his testimony Tuesday at the inquest being held at St. Lawrence College.

Evidence was also presented Monday by Dr. Robert Malone, chief of psychiatry at Brockville General Hospital.

Malone was asked about previous evidence given by Jody Roke, Matthew's mother, that her son was willing to go straight to the Elmgrove Centre in response to his mental health problems but he refused to go first to Brockville General's emergency department for a medical assessment.

Malone told a five-member jury panel entrusted with making recommendations that a medical assessment is a prerequisite to seeing a psychiatrist and being admitted to the relocated acute-care site in the hospital.

Jody Roke said her son was agitated by the long wait times in the emergency room and, unlike other inpatients, was too volatile to remain calm while waiting.

Even when he was redirected to a quiet room, Matthew would pace and objected to a camera in the room, she said.

Malone said mental health patients must first have a medical assessment and undergo blood tests to determine if there are other factors affecting their well-being before they are transferred to psychiatric care.

Moreover, since the move of the acute-care psychiatric unit to the hospital, a crisis care team is available to act as a liaison with staff and help decrease the wait time, said Malone.

FAST FACTS: Inquest expected to conclude next week

What was expected to be a two-week inquest into the May 2, 2012 fatal shooting by Prescott OPP of Maitland resident Matthew Roke will likely extend into a third week.

Mental health professionals are slated to take the stand during the remainder of this week, with a view to having recommendations from a five-person jury presented to regional coroner Dr. Roger Skinner, who is presiding over the inquest.

Matthew Roke was killed during a psychotic episode near the family home in Maitland he shared with his parents, the Rev. John and Jody Roke.

Police were called shortly after midnight after he held a knife to the neck of his mother and was deemed a threat to the public.

After disappearing overnight, Matthew Roke returned home the next morning and he was later confronted by police with drawn weapons and shot near the car park on the Second Concession by County Road 15.
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Hope in team treatment

Postby Thomas » Thu May 01, 2014 10:45 am

A three-year placement with a specialized team of health care and social service professionals from 2006-’09 stabilized Matthew Roke’s mental illness and left him with a positive attitude and a budding career as an arborist.

On the eighth day of a coroner’s inquest into the fatal Ontario Provincial Police shooting of the 33-year-old man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, psychiatrist Dr. Robert Smith said Roke was different after three years in the care of the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team.

Smith said contact with the independently-minded son of Rev. John and Jody Roke of Maitland could be difficult but he had settled down during his time with the team and his symptoms were better controlled.

Matthew Roke was taking his medication and seemed to have “shied away a little from substance abuse” due to his involvement with the team.

“He was an active arborist and looking forward to the future,” Smith, who spent 13 years as psychiatrist on the ACT team, told the inquest at St. Lawrence College on Wednesday.

“We didn’t really see a lot of the sick Matt Roke from his hospital days. We saw a lot more of the well Matt.”

Roke was discharged from the program in December 2009 and he was eager to sever ties, said Smith.

Concerns remained over the substance abuse problems for Roke, who was addicted to alcohol and nicotine according to previous testimony, and Smith believes he was urged to contact the Tricounty Addiction Services for help.

“Regardless of what is going on with this young guy, by his behaviour he really doesn’t want our services,” said Smith, adding Roke’s participation was voluntary.

Roke was referred to the team after spending time the previous three years in acute care at the former Elmgrove Unit – now relocated at the Brockville General Hospital – when it was on the grounds of the Brockville Mental Health Centre.

He was reacquainted with the unit on Jan. 31, 2012 after an assault on a store clerk at a time when his mental health was again deteriorating.

After a turbulent month at Elmgrove, where Roke several times left the grounds without permission and was sometimes abusive to staff and other patients, Roke refused an offer to rejoin the ACT team and live in a group home setting, provided by Leeds and Grenville Mental Health.

Instead, Roke chose to live with an uncle in Dundas County and eventually began living in a tent as his health continued to decline.

Shortly after midnight May 2, 2012, police were called to his parents’ home on the Second Concession in Maitland after Roke threatened his mother with a knife and fled into the nearby bush.

He avoided capture during a search of the area and returned home about 7 a.m., leading to a fatal encounter with Prescott OPP officers.

http://www.recorder.ca/2014/05/01/hope- ... -treatment
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Roke jury begins deliberations

Postby Thomas » Wed May 07, 2014 3:42 am

More police training to deal with people suffering a mental health crisis and a review of discharge plans from mental health facilities are two main points a jury tasked with making recommendations from a coroner's inquest will ponder.

On Monday, the five-member jury into Matthew Roke's death heard recommendations jointly made by lawyers with standing n the case. Of the 27 lawyer-drafted recommendations given the jury for consideration, the majority dealt with police training, ways to strengthen mental health care and increased communication between police and mental health professionals.

"It's your ultimate decision as to what you feel appropriate," John Semenoff, counsel to presiding coroner Roger Skinner, told the jury.

Roke, 33, was shot and killed by police two years ago. Roke was in the midst of a schizophrenic episode and witnesses testified he lunged at police with a knife before he was fatally shot by Grenville County provincial police officers.

One of the recommendations includes having more police training on how to de-escalate situations dealing with a mentally ill person, and asking the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and the Ontario Police College, to provide more funding for training officers for dealing with the mentally ill.

Semenoff said confrontational tactics do not always work.
"There would be some benefit in terms of further training and examination of techniques, particularly when you're dealing with emotionally disturbed persons," he said.

A recommendation was also made to have more front-line officers equipped with conducted energy weapons (Tasers). The Ontario Provincial Police have taken steps towards having more officers carry the Tasers.

The recommendations jointly put forth by lawyers also address Roke's time spent at Brockville General Hospital's Elmgrove unit. He was discharged from there shortly before his death on May 2, 2012.

Semenoff said Roke had slammed another patient's fingers in a door the day before his release and received no follow-up after he left the hospital on February 28, 2012, after an almost month-long stay.

"If was almost inevitable, when you consider his discharge and the time of his discharge, that his condition would deteriorate," Semenoff said.

A number of recommendations regarding care at BGH were put forth, including a review of treatment and discharge plans, the increased involvement of patients' families and following up with patients and their families within a week after discharge.

A recommendation was made to ask the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for increased funding to hospital-based treatment.

The jury will on Tuesday consider all recommendations put forth by counsel. Jury members can accept or reject the recommendations, as well as submit their own recommendations.

Roke's mother, Jody, thanked the jury Monday for their time and consideration into her son's death.

"We're here not to lay blame, but to make changes," Roke said, adding she and her husband John will be happy to put the process behind them.

"We all sort of fell short, including my husband and I. We think every day about the way we could have done things differently."

HOMICIDE OR SUICIDE?
Along with making recommendations after an inquest into the death of Matthew Roke, the jury must also decide whether the mentally ill man's death be classified as a suicide or a homicide.

Coroner Roger Skinner and his counsel, John Semenoff, contend Roke's death should be classified as a homicide, but Norm Feaver, counsel for the Ontario Provincial Police, said Roke's death could be classified as a suicide.

Feaver said Roke's comments to police officers to 'just shoot' him - and testimony that he had suicidal thoughts at times in his life - point to suicide as the cause of death.

"(He) knew he was going to be shot if he undertook certain behaviour," said Feaver, referring to Roke's fatal confrontation with police on May 2, 2012.

But Skinner and Semenoff said Roke's death better fits the definition of a homicide, meaning a human being caused the death of another human.

The jury may also choose "undetermined" as the cause of death. Regardless, a coroner's inquest does not lay blame and criminal charges will not be filed.

http://www.recorder.ca/2014/05/06/roke- ... iberations
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Roke inquest recommends police Tasers and better training

Postby Thomas » Sat May 10, 2014 5:02 am

Roke inquest recommends police Tasers, better training in mental health issues

Matthew Roke, 33, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, died in May 2012 after he was shot in Maitland, just east of Belleville, when he approached Ontario Provincial Police officers with a knife.

A coroner’s jury has recommended that more police officers carry Tasers and that officers receive mandatory annual training about mental illness and how to deal with emotionally disturbed people.

Those recommendations were among 38 made by a jury Wednesday after hearing evidence in the coroner’s inquest into the May 2, 2012 shooting death of Matthew Roke by the Ontario Provincial Police in Maitland. The 33-year-old man with paranoid schizophrenia had held a knife to his mother’s throat and later confronted four police officers with a knife during a psychotic episode.

The inquest jury concluded the death was a homicide, or a death caused by another person, but does not assign blame. The four officers who were present when Roke was shot, including the two who fired their guns, have already been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the province’s Special Investigations Unit.

Roke, who had previously said he heard voices and complained his room was bugged, hadn’t been taking his medication in the months leading up to the shooting. The morning he was shot, he had burst into his mother’s room and called her a rat for giving information about him to police and mental health workers.

The inquest heard it wasn’t until three minutes after paramedics found Roke without vital signs from a gunshot wound to the chest that the first officer who was equipped with a Taser arrived on scene. Only supervisors and members of specialty units were allowed to carry the stun guns at the time. Last August, the province said it would allow individual forces to decide whether to equip front-line officers with Tasers.

The jury recommended that Tasers be available in all interactions between police and people armed with weapons other than firearms. They also recommended that the Ontario Police College increase the mental health component of officer training. That training should be included in the annual mandatory training of police officers and emphasize techniques of de-escalation, the jury found.

A police officer testified at the inquest that having access to summaries of medical histories of mentally distressed patients might make it easier for responding officers to understand the needs of people they encounter. But, a lawyer representing the Brockville Mental Health Centre — one of several medical and mental health groups given standing — said that to allow officers to access such histories would violate privacy legislation.

The jury recommended that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the OPP, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Ontario should produce an interpretation bulletin for police and mental health care workers in order to clarify privacy issues. The interpretation should focus on the health and safety of the individual whose information is being shared and on public safety, the jury found.

They also recommended that the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care increase the availability and funding of hospital-based addiction treatment services in psychiatric facilities and study the need for long-term in-patient services for people with severe, chronic mental illness.

The jury further recommended that the Brockville General Hospital department of psychiatry conduct a full internal Quality of Care review with respect to the circumstances of Roke’s admission, treatment and discharge from the hospital from Jan. 31 to Feb. 12, 2012.

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Roke+inque ... story.html
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