The five jurors sitting in on the coroner’s inquest into the police shooting death of Rodney Levi have been unable to come up with the nature of his death and will deliberate for a second day Friday.
The jurors must decide whether Levi’s death was a homicide, suicide, or whether neither can be determined, coroner John Evans instructed them Thursday morning.
“You must now make a decision based on the evidence you have heard at the inquest,” Evans said.
But after more than five hours of deliberations, they were called back into the inquest room at a hotel in Miramichi, N.B., and told they would need to take a break and resume the next morning.
Evans told the three women and two men of the jury they needed to take their time.
Levi, 48, of Metepenagiag First Nation, was shot dead by police in Sunny Corner, N.B., on June 12, 2020, after officers responded to a complaint about a man with knives at a home.
The shooting was investigated by Quebec’s police watchdog, the Bureau des enquetes independantes, and New Brunswick prosecutors determined the officers on the scene believed Levi was using force against them and were justified in killing him.
During the inquest, which began last week, the jury was told Levi and a friend arrived at the home of pastor Brodie MacLeod of the Boom Road Pentecostal Church around suppertime. Levi had wanted to speak with the pastor.
MacLeod testified that Levi seemed agitated, but invited him to stay for a BBQ. Witnesses said that after the meal, Levi went into the house and emerged with two knives that he produced from the front pocket of a red hoodie he was wearing.
MacLeod said he told his wife to lock the door and call 911. Officers arrived and began to talk with Levi on the back deck of the home. They said Levi refused to drop the knives.
Levi was electroshocked three times and allegedly told officers, “You’re going to have to put a bullet in me.”
Evans told jurors Thursday morning that statement was significant.
Levi’s niece, Becky Levi, said Monday Rodney was not suicidal.
“It was so frustrating,” she told reporters after the inquest had ended for the day. “I knew my uncle Rodney. He was a lot of things, but suicide wasn’t one of them. He had his troubles with depression but he just wouldn’t do that.
“He tried so hard. Look at how many times he reached out for help, instead of getting help, he was shot and killed.”
A 37-second video of the shooting recorded on a smartphone was shown to the jury. It showed Levi dropping one of the knives when he was jolted the third time. He then picked it up and moved forward and was shot twice.
Police said Levi lunged or moved toward them and was only three to five feet away from them when the two shots were fired. A coroner who examined the body said Levi died as a result of the two gunshots.
Doctors who had treated Levi in the years prior to his death testified that he had a lengthy history of drug addiction, including crystal meth. They said he often sought help, but usually checked out early, and they said he often spoke of thoughts of suicide.
Forensic suicidologist Greg Zed told the jury on Tuesday that it was his theory that Levi died as a result of suicide by cop.
Evans said the jury is not to assign blame, but needed to determine the nature of Levi’s death and issue recommendations to help prevent a death under similar circumstances in the future.
“You have an opportunity here to make a difference,” he said.