Jurors heard dramatic testimony from a civilian eyewitness as the inquest into the death of Jeff Berg ended its first week. Sari Fujikawa choked back tears as she described how a uniformed police officer walked up behind Berg, struck him in the head or neck with his service weapon, knocking him to the ground, and then kicked his motionless body twice in the head. The officer then dragged Berg’s lifeless body across the alley “like a rag doll”. Ms. Fujikawa, the daughter of a Buddhist minister who lived near the scene, told her friends and family about the incident, but the police did not contact her for a statement. She came forward after seeing a poster seeking witnesses to the incident that had been posted by Berg’s sister Julie.

The jury heard that Berg was one of four men found in a car behind 4870 Slocan Street in Vancouver at about 9:45 p.m. on Sunday, October 22, 2004. The house had been the site of a marijuana grow operation and had been raided by police a few months earlier. Cst. Bruce-Thomas, a race car driver in his spare time, rammed the vehicle and smashed it into a nearby garage. After Berg got out, he sustained serious injuries and later died in hospital. Berg, 37, had no prior criminal record, no previous medical problems and had not consumed any alcohol or drugs immediately before he was killed.

Earlier in the week, the five inquest jurors heard testimony from the lead VPD homicide investigator on the file. Det. Phil Little confirmed Berg was unarmed and that Bruce-Thomas reported no injuries to himself: no scratches or bruises of any kind. Little said that he did not interview any police witnesses, inviting them to send him written statements instead. He did not immediately seize Bruce-Thomas’ boots, weapon or clothing for lab testing. He submitted a Report to Crown Counsel 14 months after the incident. As a result of Det. Little’s homicide investigation into the actions of his VPD colleague (an investigation described by former Crown Counsel Dana Urban, Q.C. as “incompetent at best”), no charges were laid.

Although the three people in the car with Berg that night were charged with offences, all the charges were dropped before trial. No evidence about the events of that evening ever came out in court.

In other developments, attempts by Berg family lawyer Cameron Ward to file various witness statements in evidence were rebuffed. When Coroner’s Counsel John Bethel sought to file statements from the the occupants of 4870 Slocan, the statements were made exhibits over Mr. Ward’s objections, on the basis that the makers of the statements could no longer be found. One of these people, Mo Thi Le, had been arrested and charged a few months before the break-in as a result of a police raid that netted over 22,000 grams of marijuana. Le did not ever stand trial. No explanation was offered as to what attempts were made to find the seven-member Le family so some of them could testify at the inquest, or how these seven people could have vanished without a trace.

At one point, Coroner Jeannine Robinson described the exchanges between lawyers as a “catfight”. Bill Smart is the lawyer for David Bruce-Thomas, Kevin Woodall represents all other VPD officers who may be witnesses and Catherine Kinahan is counsel for the VPD. Coroner Robinson conducted the inquiry into the death of Frank Joseph Paul, an aboriginal man who died of hypothermia after being dumped in an alley by Vancouver police. She classified the death as “accidental” and declined to hold an inquest in that case.