Travis Douglas Oakes was high on cocaine when he was fatally shot by police trying to resist arrest by the High Enforcement Auto Theft (HEAT) city police team at a southwest car wash, a toxicologist testified on Tuesday at an inquiry into his death.
Dr. Graham Jones said Oakes, 33, would have consumed at least five lines (about 500 milligrams) of the illicit drug in the hours leading up to his death just after 3 a.m. on March 18, 2009.
He had been under surveillance for six hours when the officers blocked his stolen Chevrolet Caprice at both ends of the Western Pride Car Wash. Oakes rammed the police vehicles in an attempt to escape before being killed.
"He would have been under the influence of cocaine at the time of his death," Jones told Crown lawyer Christine Nugent
Jones said such an amount of cocaine can have an adverse effect on a person, including bizarre behaviour such as excited delirium, and it can happen even if one is tolerant to the drug.
Under cross-examination, the toxicologist agreed with city police lawyer John Cordeau that the level of cocaine in Oakes' system was "consistent with an elevated level . . . showing significant use of cocaine in recent hours."
Const. Kerry Smith, a member of the HEAT team who kept Oakes under surveillance starting at 9 the previous night, said she was aware the suspect was wanted for baiting and taunting police, as well as vehicle theft, licence plate theft and robbery. She said during the surveillance, she and other officers saw Oakes drive to several convenience stores, plazas and liquor stores as if he was casing them to rob them.
However, she added, there was not an opportunity to safely arrest the man until he drove into the car wash and began to wash the car.
"There was no time during surveillance where there was a proper distance from Mr. Oakes to the vehicle where we could make an arrest," Smith said. When asked about a comment she made to other members of the HEAT team about four hours before the shooting, texting, "Maybe we can just shoot this guy, already," Smith said it was "an inappropriate comment, an attempt to use black humour to lessen the stress of the circumstances."
She said it "was not typical" to follow a suspect for six hours, as the team did that night, to effect an arrest.
"We followed as long as we needed to arrest," she said. "At this point he had attended so many addresses and the elevated level I felt had risen."
Smith said the earlier inappropriate comment had no bearing on the outcome that night.
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