‘His eyes were completely wild’

Man with knife kept advancing, officer testifies

Jennifer Saltman, Vancouver Province, April 24, 2012


Vancouver police Const. Estilize Wicks leaves the police-shooting inquest
at Burnaby Coroner’s Court on Monday. Photo: Ward Perrin, PNG.

Michael Vann Hubbard


A Vancouver police officer said she shot knife-wielding Michael Vann Hubbard to stop the threat he posed to her and her partner.

“I felt unless I did something about the situation, he would seriously hurt me or cause death,” Const. Estilize Wicks testified Monday morning at a coroner’s inquest.

Hubbard, 58, died in March 2009 after being shot by Wicks in Downtown Vancouver during a confrontation. Wicks and her partner, Const. Celia Tisdall, had responded to a call about a theft from a car at around 10: 30 a.m. on March 20, 2009.

They headed toward a shelter, Belkin House, in the 500-block Homer Street, just north of where the theft occurred, in search of a suspect.

“It’s a popular place for us to go to look for suspects,” Wicks said.

On the street they spotted Hubbard rifling through a black backpack that matched the description of the stolen bag. The two officers stopped to talk to Hubbard.

Tisdall testified that when she identified herself and asked Hubbard for his identification and to look in the bag, he reacted “strangely,” asking for her ID and badge number, which she provided.

Tisdall said she told Hubbard she would put him in handcuffs if he didn’t comply with her requests.

“He got this really weird look on his face. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” Tisdall said.

Hubbard then reached behind his back, pulled out a utility knife and extended the blade, Tisdall said.

“I was completely shocked.” Tisdall said she drew her firearm and backed up, then called for help. Wicks, who had been observing, also drew her gun and backed away.

Hubbard, while brandishing the knife, screamed obscenities at her and Wicks, telling them to shoot him, Tisdall said.

Tisdall said she and Wicks repeatedly asked Hubbard to drop the knife, but he advanced as they retreated.

“His eyes were completely wild,” Tisdall said.

Tisdall said she was prepared to shoot Hubbard, but he briefly stopped moving forward.

Wicks said she then noticed a change in Hubbard’s behaviour — he gave her “the 1,000-yard stare.”

“He was looking right through me,” she testified.

Hubbard raised the knife and moved quickly toward her, Wicks said. She aimed at Hubbard and fired one shot. He immediately fell to the ground.

While Wicks radioed for an ambulance, Tisdall kicked away the knife and tried to handcuff Hubbard.

“My hands were shaking. I was having a hard time getting the second cuff on,” she said.

Another officer and paramedics administered first aid, but Hubbard was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tisdall said she suspected he had mental-health issues because of his mannerisms and behaviour. Wicks, however, said Hubbard didn’t display “overt signs” of mental illness.

Hubbard suffered from schizophrenia.

Both officers have completed a crisis-intervention course and dealt regularly with people who are mentally ill.

Neither officer was qualified to carry or use a Taser or a beanbag gun.

Wicks said she wouldn’t have considered a Taser if she had one because Hubbard was too close.

At the time of the shooting, the officers had no idea Hubbard was wanted on a warrant after missing an immigration hearing.

It turned out Hubbard hadn’t committed the theft.

The inquest continues.

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