Friends want answers into
shooting death by cops

Mentally ill white supremacist remembered as
‘decent guy’ who helped his neighbours

Dustin Walker, Vancouver Province, Oct. 24, 2010

Jeff Hughes

Residents of the building where Jeff Hughes lived still talk about the morning, one year ago, when he was killed by police.

Police continue to investigate the Oct. 23, 2009, shooting and have released only a few details: RCMP officers responded to a noise complaint. A man in the apartment would not open the door and, in light of his behaviour, police decided to withdraw and contain the building. Hughes came out armed with what the officers believed to be a weapon and they fired on him, killing the man at about 7 a.m.

How many officers were involved, how many shots were fired and whether Hughes had a gun are facts that haven’t been made public.

What has been revealed over the past year is the complex personality of Hughes, who was estranged from his family and suffered from mental illness. White supremacists hail him as a martyr for his involvement in the neo-Nazi movement, while friends and neighbours remember the 48-year-old as a kind, somewhat isolated man who volunteered for local charities and was passionate about the environment.

Hughes often promoted his white-supremacist views online, urging his comrades in one YouTube video “to push our agenda.”

But to the elderly Cree woman who lived in the suite above him, he was quiet and a good person who often fetched her milk from the store.

Dino David, who knew Hughes for about 12 years, says they would chat about cooking, dogs and the goings-on of the apartment building. She says he admired the First Nations crafts that she made and sold to a gift shop — and he even helped her print out explanatory notes that went with the items.

“If he was into something evil, why was he doing this?” she says. “This is spiritual.”

David says she doesn’t think Hughes really bought into the ideology he preached.

“It was just a thing he played with on the computer. I think he had a hard time meeting people, and they accepted him,” says David.

Jackie Britten, Hughes’ landlady and friend for about 15 years, says he kept his views to himself.

“Jeff was a friend. Jeff was a decent guy. He had some funny ideas, but he never forced them on you,” Britten says.

Hughes lived on a disability pension but was an aspiring computer technician who would often help others when their systems crashed.

Hughes did have problems with the law, friends admit, but they are frustrated that few details about his death have been released.

Several petitions have been circulated, calling for a public inquiry into the actions of the RCMP. Victoria layer Doug Christie, who has represented white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, has been leading the push.

Sgt. Grant Hamilton, spokesman for the Victoria police force, which is handling the investigation into the shooting death, says it is “almost complete.”

But that comes as little comfort for those awaiting answers.

“I wish more of the truth can come out,” says David. “I want to know why they shot him.”


A green light to kill

Jeff Hughes’ death is an indictment
of callous, cowardly Canadian police
Previous stories about Jeff Hughes:
As the Jeff Hughes investigation drags on,
police reveal almost nothing about his death. More...
Those inexcusably long cop-on-cop investigations
have to be a deliberate ploy to compromise justice. More...
The law should apply to police and citizens in equal measure.
So why the silence on Jeff Hughes’ death? More...
After a 16-month delay, the province finally calls
a coroner’s inquest — but not for another five months.
The inquest can’t even apply blame or find fault. More...
It’s an airtight cover-up, but it still stinks.
Police say their trigger-happy colleague is innocent — period.
They flatly refuse to release even the most basic facts
about Jeff Hughes’ death. More...
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