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Coroner’s inquest begins for Maple Ridge man fatally shot by police

The seven day inquest is taking place at Burnaby Coroner’s Court
Kyaw Din was a Burmese immigrant who suffered from mental illness. (Contributed)

A Maple Ridge woman whose brother was killed by police in 2019 testified on the first day of a coroner’s inquest on Monday.

Yin Yin Din started the seven days of testimony, telling her version of what happened on Aug. 11, 2019, the day her brother was shot by police. Kyaw Naing Din was 54 when he was killed in the family home he shared with his siblings on Colemore Street. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and was frequently taken to hospital by police.

The 911 call she made that fateful day was played for a jury and the coroner presiding over the inquest.

She explained how her brother had stopped taking his medication for his mental health issues and had become confused, not recognizing her as his sister. So, she called the police for help taking him to the hospital, insisting in the 911 call that he would listen and go with Caucasian officers, because he responded to them better.

However, when police officers arrived on scene, Kyaw did not want to go “at this time”, and Din made that known to a Const. Matthew Wagner, the first officer, she said, who arrived on scene.

Wagner told her he would call for an ambulance, continued Din, telling her they could take Kyaw to the hospital themselves.

“He said, we don’t need to get involved,” added Din.

Within five minutes an ambulance arrived and two paramedics got out.

Din checked on her brother several times while police were on scene. At one point she told him an ambulance had arrived, but he still did not want to go to the hospital. She said he was transferring a bag of sugar into a plastic peanut butter jar with a spoon.

“He was just sitting, you know, peacefully, quietly,” she said, in a chair by his bed.

Then, she, said, she phoned her sister, and she and two younger brothers were on their way to the house to help, and she told Const. Wagner that they would be at the house in about 10 minutes, she testified.

More officers began arriving on scene, testified Yin, including a police officer Din referred to as a “supervisor” because he appeared to be leading the other officers.

Din was still concerned police would rush into Kyaw’s bedroom and, she said, she asked them not to because she was worried he would become upset and throw a sugar bottle at them and hurt someone.

“I was very concerned the police might shoot brother, so I said, don’t shoot my brother, you know. Kyaw is a good brother, he is not violent, you know, he is not harming anybody,” she said.

The third time she checked in on Kyaw, she said her brother was sitting in his chair, opening up a glass sugar bottle.

She said it was the “supervisor” who insisted police would go into her brother’s room, and that he and another police officer entered the room, as Din stood a couple of feet behind them.

“Are you okay,” were the only words Din said she heard one of the officers ask when they opened the room door. Then, about four or five seconds later, she heard the crackling of a taser and immediately she saw a bottle thrown through the air that hit a wall and fall back onto her brother’s bed, without breaking.

She heard the sound of three rapid gunshots.

Then it went absolutely quiet, she said. She turned to Const. Wagner, who was standing at the entrance of the narrow hallway that led to her brother’s bedroom, and asked if the two officers shot her brother. He ordered her to get out of the house, she said, along with everybody else.

When she was outside the house, she went to the screen door of her younger brother Min, who was in his bedroom with the family’s small dog, and she told him that everybody had to get out of the house.

Din claimed she never saw a plastic weight that police say was thrown from her brother’s room prior to the shooting.

The Din family lawyer, Neil Chantler, asked her, after seeing a photo clearly showing a weight lying in the hallway, would she have seen a weight travel out of the bedroom, if it had.

“If it was thrown, I would have seen it,” she replied.

READ MORE: Sister mourns brother who died in police shooting in Maple Ridge

She also said that there was a gun in the house, that she told Ridge Meadows RCMP about during the 911 phone call. But that it was never a factor when police were called to the home that day, and police were never concerned about it. She said that it was locked on an upper shelf in her younger brother Min’s bedroom and that her brother Kyaw did not know about the gun.

Din insisted there was never any urgency to the situation, and that she felt the “supervisor” on scene was not listening to her concerns. She also insisted that she was never worried about her safety, although in the 911 call she told the Ridge Meadows RCMP that her brother had threatened to hurt her an hour earlier.

RELATED: Sister of Maple Ridge man killed by police has been denied victim’s assistance

Other testimony came from those in the medical profession who work with mental health patients including Kyaw, who testified about Kyaw’s condition and the medication he was taking, including registered psychiatric nurse Monique St. Peter. She told the inquest that when Kyaw was in her care she was responsible for assessing his mood, monitoring his symptoms of psychosis, and administering him an anti psychotic medication every three weeks at his home.

She testified that there was a language barrier and said it was difficult to get an interpreter because Burmese was not a common language, but that his sister Yin Yin was good at interpreting.

St. Peter described Kyaw as happy and pleasant who would meet her at her car and carry her bag into the house for her.

She said she never noticed him paranoid or psychotic and that she never had a concern dealing with Kyaw where she felt she had to call the police.

The Independent Investigations Office released a report in September 2020, saying that police officers were justified in using force, and the office did not recommend criminal charges against the RCMP officer who shot and killed Kyaw.

Presiding coroner Donita Kuzma and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses under oath to determine the facts surrounding the death. The jury will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances, but not be making any finding of legal responsibility or express any conclusion of law.

Under the Coroners Act, inquests are mandatory when a person dies while detained by, or in the custody of, a peace officer.

An inquest is a formal process that allows public presentation of evidence relating to a death. The jury will certify the identity of the deceased and how, where, when and by what means death occurred. The inquest is open to the public.

The inquest will continue at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 1, with more testimony from Din.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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