Inquest jury finds Lafond’s death accidental

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Jordan Lafond’s death was an accident, an inquest jury has found.

The six-person jury’s findings, announced Friday at the inquest into Lafond’s death, ruled the death an accident and stated the 21-year-old died of blunt force trauma to the head.

The findings, released one day after Saskatchewan’s chief forensic pathologist testified at the inquest, did not rule on what caused the fatal trauma.

Lafond was the passenger in a stolen truck that crashed into a fence on Oct. 23, 2016, after a pursuit with Saskatoon police. He later died in hospital.

Sgt. Thomas Gresty testified earlier this week he kneed Lafond three or four times in the head. He said — noting he regrets what happened — he initially believed Lafond was resisting arrest but soon realized Lafond wasn’t trying to get away.

The forensic pathologist, Dr. Shaun Ladham, told the inquest Lafond was injured in the crash — and, specifically, that Lafond died of blunt force trauma to the head — but the doctor noted he isn’t certain if the fatal trauma was caused by the crash or by the police’s use of force.

Lafond’s family, who spoke outside court following the release of the jury report, said they were disappointed in the findings.

“It’s been a very, very long hard week hearing everything that happened to my son the night he died,” Lafond’s mother, Charmaine Dreaver, said. “I’m not happy with the findings but, I mean, it’s not going to end there. I’m going to keep fighting.”

An investigation into the police’s use of force during Lafond’s arrest was launched shortly after the death, but did not result in charges, police Chief Troy Cooper said in a statement Friday. The investigation was launched by police and the coroner’s office, and overseen by the province.

Chris Murphy, a lawyer for Lafond’s family, questioned the investigation when speaking to reporters outside court, and he specifically referred to the internal investigation process in Saskatchewan as “the police police the police.”

He said the family will be looking to meet with Cooper to discuss civilian oversight and the process of investigating police conduct in the province.

Inquests are meant to determine the cause, manner and circumstances of deaths. The jury may also make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Sgt. Kelly Olafson, who handcuffed Lafond after the crash, said he thought Lafond may be armed. He said a report to police indicated at least one gun was in the stolen truck and he testified three guns were recovered from the vehicle after the crash.

The jury’s two recommendations focused on firearms. The first called for City of Saskatoon and provincial officials to facilitate a public awareness campaign to educate the public on proper gun storage and security. The second called for the provincial Justice Ministry to look at increasing penalties for people convicted of unsafe gun storage — and related offences.

Cooper said in his statement information from the inquest, as well as from the police investigation, will likely be used in a Provincial Complaints Commission probe into the incident.

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