Observations from the Coroner's Court - Day 2
Today was day 2 of the inquest and I learned a lot. The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Michael Vann Hubbard testified that the only way he could have survived was if he had surgery to repair the internal injuries caused by the gun shot. It sounded like a fine balance was needed to keep him breathing, keep his heart beating, and decide whether or he could be transported to hospital for surgery. But Mr. Hubbard was never moved. He remained on the sidewalk, treated by paramedics, before being pronounced dead almost 30 minutes after he was shot. This was why it was profoundly shocking to learn that the reason the ambulance never appeared on screen, and Mr. Hubbard was never prepared for transport, was because upon arrival at the scene a parked police cruiser prevented paramedics from reaching Mr. Hubbard directly. Parking a half block away, one of the paramedics testified today that the distance from the ambulance to Mr. Hubbard was substantial enough to impact whether or not he could be transported; as to do so would mean stopping the resuscitation efforts desperately keeping him alive. Apparently there was an officer stationed next to the police car, but that officer didn’t have the keys. It all seemed so farcical, and again the lack of foresight seemed to be conspiring to make this terrible situation even worse.
The closed circuit video of the incident that was played this morning showed at least five minutes of Mr. Hubbard laying on the sidewalk after being shot with no one really helping him. One of the paramedics who arrived to help Hubbard testified that compressions (or CPR) can keep a person’s heart and brain alive if done consistently and aggressively following a trauma. Both paramedics stated that in their opinions ALL emergency responders should have CPR training. The Vancouver Police Department patrollers however do not get CPR or first aid training because, as we were told today, the ambulance service responds very quickly in Vancouver so the powers to be decided it’s not necessary. So let’s get this straight, the police shot Mr. Hubbard and left him lying on the street for a significant amount of time before one officer (who, as fate would have it had been trained to administer CPR in a past career) couldn’t feel his pulse so started chest compressions? I was so shocked (and horrified) that he had been shot and NOTHING was being done for minutes!! And then the paramedics, who apparently arrive so fast as to void the need for any police CPR training, are blocked and delayed from attending Mr. Hubbard’s critical injuries? It all seemed like an exercise in how not to mount an appropriate medical response to a police shooting.
But despite these frustrations the end of the inquest day today felt like a missing piece of the puzzle finally appeared. The whole time we’ve listened to the officers involved, the experts on police training, the ambulance personnel, but we never got a very good feel for who Michael Vann Hubbard really was as a person. When we heard from his daughter over the phone today and she expressed that her father was a sweet person who wouldn’t hurt anyone, all of the issues that had been addressed up to this point seemed all the more complicated. He had battled mental health issues his whole life and finally after treatment and medication things were starting to look up for him. He was the type of person who worried about breaking the law. He would only change lanes when the road lines were dotted, even if that meant turning later than he wanted. He had a job in the U.S., an apartment near his daughters so he could spend time with them, and worked on his intricate art pieces but struggled to afford his medication. If he chose not to work then welfare would have paid for the medication but he didn’t want to live off the system, so he moved to Canada thinking it would be a better life, with better access to care. He ended up living on the streets and his paranoid delusions about the government and the police returned. His daughter said that her father would always act very possessive and strange when it came to his black knapsack because he had been homeless a lot in his life and this bag carried all the possessions he had – his letters, pictures, cards for his daughters. So on March 20, 2009 around 10:45am when the police approached him and demanded to look at his bag, it seemed to make a lot more sense why he took out the ever-present exacto-knife he had been using to make his art for most of his life, and advanced on them.