BURNABY, B.C. – A young man was calm and co-operative at a hospital emergency room just hours before he was killed by transit police officers in Surrey, B.C., the doctor who treated him told a coroner’s inquest on Monday.
But a bus driver who saw 23-year-old Naverone Woods on the same day described him as screaming and agitated before she closed the doors as he ran towards her bus on Dec. 28, 2014.
Police have said Woods, a resident of Hazelton in northern B.C., was distraught when officers were called to a grocery store that morning. He was shot by officers during a confrontation and died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
The Independent Investigations Office, which investigates serious cases involving police, cleared officers of any wrongdoing in May 2016. The coroner’s service holds an inquest into every police-involved death in an effort to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar fatalities.
Dr. Craig Murray told the coroner’s jury on the first day of testimony that Woods came into Surrey Memorial Hospital around 2 a.m. on Dec. 28, saying he had fallen and hurt his knee.
“Behaviourally, he was calm, co-operative and appropriate,” said Murray.
Murray said Woods told him he had been drinking alcohol and using a variety of drugs earlier that week, and mentioned having a seizure earlier in the day.
“I have a very strong suspicion that the seizure was due to alcohol or drug use,” Murray said.
He testified that he told Woods to stop using drugs, gave him painkillers and discharged him around 5 a.m.
The jury watched surveillance footage that showed a young man wearing a grey hoodie and an orange baseball cap making his way through a transit station before he jogged toward a bus and crashed into its closed doors. The video then showed the man pacing and running around the area, at times clutching his head in his hands, or gesturing wildly.
Friends and family were visibly emotional as the video played, crying and comforting one another.
Bus driver Christine Morrison told the inquest she was stopped at the Surrey Central bus station on the morning of Dec. 28, and had her head down when she heard screaming. When she looked up, a man was coming towards her bus.
“He appeared quite agitated. We deal with a lot of stuff as bus drivers. I was a bit scared. I just didn’t want to deal with it. So I closed my doors when he ran at my bus,” Morrison said.
She testified that after calling security, she continued along her route. Morrison returned to the area the same day and saw a heavy police presence. Another driver told her there was an incident between a young man and police, and the man had been taken to hospital.
“I felt horrible because I was the one who initiated the call. And he’s the same age as my kids,” she said, crying.
Tracey Woods said outside the inquest that Naverone’s friends and family are hoping it brings some clear answers.
“We’re going to find out exactly what happened because we’ve never, ever had too much information on the events,” she said.
In her testimony, Woods described her brother-in-law as a “happy-go-lucky” guy who loved his family.
“Still to this very day there’s a huge empty spot in all of us.”