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Fort St. John
Friday, December 14, 2018
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Inquest into death of Buick Creek resident begins in Fort St. John

 

The coroner’s inquest into the death of a Buick Creek resident began in Fort St. John Monday.

Testimony from family members, neighbours and RCMP officers provided more details into the shooting death of 41 year old Valeri George.

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George died September 30, 2009 after a five day standoff with RCMP.

According to witness testimony, George forced a van carrying his wife and children off the road and shot one of the front tires using a rifle lent to him by a neighbour to protect his livestock from wolves.

The group, driven by neighbour Johann Simon, was headed to the wedding of George’s oldest daughter in Dawson Creek.

His neighbour and family made it to a relative’s safely, before George returned and shot the other tires.

Simon said George told him that Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin had visited him at his house, as well as other strange things.

Others that knew George attested to the fact that his behaviour was completely out of character for him.

"I’d never seen him like this before," said Simon, who claimed George threatened to get physical with him.

He is described as a friendly man and a good father, despite having a temper.

However, those in contact with him testified that his behavior had changed in the months leading up to the incident.

His mood was described as "up and down" and sometimes depressed.

The firearm was lent to him by his neighbour Mel Woolfolk, as he was having problems with wolves killing his sheep.

Woolfolk said he knew it was crossing a legal line, as George did not have a license, but at the time wasn’t concerned.

After the initial incident, he no longer felt comfortable and asked for it back unsuccessfully.

The jury also heard testimony from the RCMP regarding the days following.

George barricaded himself in his property and reportedly refused to communicate with police, ignoring almost 40 phone calls from negotiators.

In the coming days, the coroner and the jury will hear more from Corporal Ryan Arnold, who was the first to shoot at Mr. George.

After multiple unsuccessful attempts to leave his house, deterred by RCMP presence, George left in his van with the firearm, at an accelerated speed.

"I believed I likely wouldn’t survive," he told the court, explaining he shot him as the van was nearing his position, fearing for the safety of his team.

Appearing to hit George, the van slowed down.

When George got out of the van with his firearm, Arnold said he fired three more times.

After attempting CPR, George was declared dead at the scene.

The court will also hear from an RCMP Sergeant in charge of training officers regarding lethal force, as well as the pathologist who conducted the autopsy.

At the end of the inquest later this week, the jury will be asked to make recommendations for preventing situations like this one.

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