Tag Archives: Hudson Brooks

License to Kill: Killer Cop Elizabeth Cucheran Let Off by Crown for Hudson Brooks Killing

When it comes to police killings of civilians, the state protects the state. This is not surprising given that police are the force of brute violence (the state’s monopoly on violence) which always accompanies and underpins the state’s legislative (ideological) face. Law and force go hand in hand.

On July 18, 2015, RCMP Constable Elizabeth Cucheran shot 20-year-old Hudson Brooks nine times outside the RCMP detachment in South Surrey, killing him. The Constable fired a dozen times at the youth, who was shirtless and shoeless and in some mental health distress. On September 18, 2019, more than four years later, the British Columbia prosecution service announced that charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon had been stayed against Constable Cucheran.

That the killer cop did not even face charges of murder or manslaughter for shooting an unarmed youth nine times and that it took more than four years to reach this decision shows the special manner with which police who kill are treated by the state in Canada.

Even more, in announcing their the prosecution service chose to emphasize that “the law is clear that even the mistaken belief in the need to use lethal force is a complete defence.” Killer cops always have this excuse, no matter how unjustified, ludicrous, or unsubstantiated, at their ready disposal. It is all they ever need to kill when they want, under whatever conditions they themselves alone decide. Police define the circumstances and they define reasonableness. Even if they are mistaken or lying. Few prosecutors, who depend on police for their cases (and who also uphold the state as do police), will ever challenge them. It is literally a license to kill.

This case earlier showed as well the way in which police lie after they kill someone to suggest that the victim posed a greater threat than they did. To blame the victim. Initial RCMP statements suggested that there had been an exchange of gunfire and an officer was also shot. This gave a public impression that Brooks had been armed and there had been some sort of gunfight between the victim and officers. It was later revealed that Constable Cucheran, in a lethal panic, had shot herself among the 12 shots she fired.


Surrey RCMP Constable Elizabeth Cucheran Charged in Killing of Hudson Brooks

RCMP Constable Elizabeth Cucheran has been charged with one count of aggravated assault and one count of assault with a weapon in the 2015 killing of 20-year-old Hudson Brooks in Surrey, British Columbia. Brooks was shot by RCMP and killed outside the District 5 RCMP detachment on 152 Street in south Surrey at around 2:30 AM on July 18, 2015.

The BC Prosecution Service approved the charges on Tuesday, December 19, 2017, following a 15-month investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, the unit that investigates police harm to civilians in the province.  Incredibly, the IIO wrapped up its investigation and sent its report to the BC Prosecution Service to consider charges in October of 2016. Yes, 14 months ago. So more questions are raised in a case that already has too many about why the Crown prosecutors took so long to lay charges. Is it because the killer was a police officer, an RCMP constable? This question must be asked given the tendency by Crown not to bring charges against killer cops even where charges are recommended.

Brooks was unarmed, dressed in shorts and flip flops when officers approached him outside the detachment. He was said to be screaming, possibly asking for help, according to some witnesses, when he was shot and killed. An officer was also shot and in first reports it was suggested that the officer had somehow been injured by Brooks, the implication being a shootout. It turns out this was a police distortion, perhaps designed to cast suspicion on the victim and to legitimize the officers’ actions publicly. It was eventually revealed that the officer had been shot by a weapon fired by police (no weapons other than police weapons were on the scene).

This has been a grueling process for the Brooks family who have worked hard to gain information about the killing of their loved one and to see those officers responsible held to some account. Family and friends of Hudson Brooks started a movement called Justice For Hudson to bring public attention to and to call for information about the police killing. They held several marches through south Surrey which were attended by hundreds of people and went right to the RCMP detachment. The Brooks family has repeatedly stated their frustration publicly with the length of time for the investigation and the lack of responsiveness by authorities.

Killer cop Cucheran is scheduled for a first appearance in Surrey provincial court on January 9, 2018.

 


Independent Investigations Office (BC) Report on Police Killing of Hudson Brooks: Crown to Consider Charges

After more than a year, a period in which few details have been provided to the public or family, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) in British Columbia has finished its report into the police killing of 20-year-old Hudson Brooks. The young man was shot and killed by an officer outside the RCMP detachment in South Surrey on July 18, 2015, under mysterious circumstances which have long called for insight and answers. The report has been forwarded to Crown prosecutors for consideration suggesting charges could be laid against an officer or officers involved.

Hudson Brooks was killed while approaching the RCMP detachment in South Surrey. He was intercepted by police on 152 Street in the early morning of July 18, 2015. He was unarmed and wearing shorts and flip-flops when an officer initially targeted him for unknown reasons. Witnesses have suggested Brooks may have been experiencing some distress and seeking assistance at the time. He was shot and killed a short time after the approach by police. Early reports noted that an officer had been shot, in what seemed an attempt to legitimize police actions in the public eye. It has since been revealed that no weapon other than those of police was found on the scene and it is believed the officer’s injury was police inflicted (perhaps even self-inflicted).

 

Consideration of Charges?

The IIO report has been forwarded to the Crown prosecutors for consideration of charges. This is only done in cases in which the IIO has determined that an officer involved in harm to a civilian may have committed a criminal act. In the words of IIO spokesperson Adan Buckley:

“At the conclusion of an investigation, if the chief civilian director of the IIO concludes that an officer may have committed any offence, then the chief civilian director will refer the case to crown. If it’s concluded the officer has not committed any offence, then the chief civilian director will publish a public report.” (quoted in Johnstone 2016)

While there is some relief in the consideration of charges in this case and the possibility that relevant details about the actions of police the night Hudson Brooks was killed by RCMP, there is little to suggest that police will be held accountable in any meaningful way. It is extremely rare in the Canadian state for officers to be charged when they kill civilians, even under the most clearly dubious and egregious circumstances. The state tends to protect its frontline forces. And Crown prosecutors appear reluctant to jeopardize the close relations they have with police on whose efforts their own success and careers partly depend. Over the brief history of the IIO in British Columbia, 56 reports have been forwarded to Crown for consideration of charges. Those 56 reports have resulted in charges only nine times, a tiny fraction of cases. Five cases remain undetermined.

 

“Justice for Hudson”

Hudson Brooks’ family has worked tirelessly to get answers about the actions of police in killing their loved one. According to his mother Jennifer Brooks: “I wouldn’t say I’m shocked because I really, really believed that this would go to Crown. I was just so happy that they closed it, because it was such a long, long wait” (quoted in Johnstone 2016).

Family and friends have organized a movement for “Justice For Hudson” to raise awareness about Hudson’s killing by police and to gain some sense of accountability for the force and officers involved. They have organized several rallies and marches in South Surrey and outside the RCMP detachment where Hudson Brooks was killed. These have been mass events with hundreds of people participating. This is in many ways unique in the Canadian context where ongoing rallies and protests over police killings have been less common and certainly received less media coverage and public attention than has been the case in the United States. This too s changing as a younger generation in particular has mobilized against police violence in the Canadian state.

The Justice for Hudson movement will continue as the case goes forward to the Crown. In the words of Jennifer Brooks: “We’re not going to wait for six months, seven months or eight months. If we have not heard anything within three months, we will plan another march because we really, really demand justice for Hudson” (quoted in Johnstone 2016).

It remains to be seen if any of the officers involved will be brought to trial. The history in British Columbia and in Canada leaves little cause for optimism

 

Further Reading

Johnstone, Jesse. 2016. “Police Watchdog Sends Hudson Brooks Report to Crown for Charge Consideration.” CBC News. October 21. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/hudson-brooks-charges-1.3815896


Serious Questions in Police Killing of Hudson Brooks: Disturbing Silence by RCMP

Six weeks after the RCMP killing of Surrey youth Hudson Brooks (who turned 20 shortly before he was shot by police) serious, and troubling, questions remain about police actions and the situation surrounding the killing. Brooks was shot by an RCMP officer outside of a community policing office in South Surrey, BC in circumstances that have not yet been properly explained.

Police initially claimed that Brooks was suicidal, but have offered nothing to suggest this was actually the case, and made statements implying that an officer had been injured by Brooks in some sort of confrontation. This latter insinuation has been discredited by forensic evidence at the scene which found only police issue equipment.

The only information provided by police is sketchy and unverified. Police suggest that a “call for service” involving a “suicidal” man apparently screaming and in some distress in the area of the 1800-block of 152nd Street in Surrey. Officers from the community office responded, located Hudson Brooks, and in some sort of struggle shots were fired. Hudson Brooks was shot multiple times and died.

His mother wants answers and is working to get them: “This is my campaign for justice for Hudson. I will never stop nor rest until I receive justice, and justice means I want these officers charged. They cannot just shoot a young man and just walk away, badge or no badge” (quoted in Saltman 2015).

Family and friends dispute the police depiction of Brooks and his emotional state. The day that Brooks was killed he was going to the beach to be with friends, something he regularly did on weekends and was reported to be in good spirits. His mother calls police claims that Brooks was suicidal “completely untrue” and “a false accusation” (Saltman 2015). She says instead: “My son loved life. He lived life to the fullest, he was happy” (quoted in Saltman 2015). She wants to know what really happened and why. She wants to know why lethal force was deployed apparently so quickly and in the absence of non-lethal options. And, above all, she wants accountability.

Family, friends, and supporters are organizing a community march for September 26, 2015 to honor Hudson and others killed through interaction with police. The march will begin at 152nd Street and 16th Avenue in Surrey and continue along 152nd Street to around 24th Avenue. Marchers intend to gather at the memorial in front of the South Surrey RCMP office. Sweatshirts, stickers, and bracelets with the slogan “#JusticeForHudson” are also being produced and distributed by supporters.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is still investigating the shooting. The RCMP report that the “subject officer” is currently on administrative duties.

References

Saltman, Jennifer. 2015. “Devastated Mom Demands Justice in Shooting Death of 20-Year Old Hudson Brooks in South Surrey.” September 2. http://www.theprovince.com/news/devastated+demands+justice+police+shooting+death+year/11333266/story.html


Delayed Information, Counterinformation: Police Accounts of their Killings

In the period immediately following a killing by police, police agencies often resort to misinformation and distortions regarding the person they have killed and/or the circumstances surrounding the killing. This includes describing the victim as intoxicated, aggressive, angry, out of control, in distress, acting irrationally or erratically. Typically agency spokespeople are deployed to disseminate this counterinformation to the public. In the age of public video there have been important cases in which the police accounts are only discounted after bystander video becomes available.

Days after the RCMP killing of Hudson Brooks his family still had no information about the details of their loved one’s death. Further, they contested the RCMP account that Brooks was suicidal. His brother suggested that the young victim was being misrepresented and said that such public misrepresentations were hurtful to the family.

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) reviewing the case released a statement saying: “Other than police issued equipment, nothing of significance was recovered from the scene.” This suggests Brooks was unarmed and also reinforces the belief that an officer shot at the scene was shot by a fellow RCMP (or was self inflicted). Which is, again, counter to the initial impression given by police that the cop was injured by the victim.