The coroner’s inquest into the death of Kevin St. Arnaud, 29, ended late yesterday in Vanderhoof with the jury classifying the death as a homicide. They heard evidence that RCMP constable Ryan Sheremetta, then 22, shot him three times in the chest from a distance of some 5.5 metres in the early morning hours of December 19, 2004. Kevin was intoxicated, unarmed, had his hands up and was holding only a white plastic bag and two plastic pill bottles just before he was killed.

Cst. Sheremetta testified he feared for his life and fired all three bullets from flat on his back as Kevin approached him in a menacing manner, shouting, “you’re gonna have to shoot me motherfucker”. However, his colleague Cst. Colleen Erickson, a twenty four year veteran of the RCMP, saw the shooting from nearby and testified that Sheremetta was standing “in a combat stance” when he fired the shots and that she did not hear the alleged threat. A civilian eyewitness reported that Sheremetta was standing just before the shots rang out, and that Kevin had his hands up in surrender.

The forensic evidence of three experts revealed that both men were standing, that Kevin was stationary just before he collapsed, and that the three fatal bullets entered his body in a downward trajectory of 30 to 40 degrees. The primary investigator, RCMP Staff Sgt. Glenn Krebs, conceded that he concluded in April of 2005 that there were “inaccuracies” in Sheremetta’s account , but his superior, RCMP Staff Sgt. Flath nonetheless subsequently advised Crown Counsel that there was “insufficient evidence” to support criminal charges.

The family was not allowed to make any submissions to the five members of the jury, whose identities remain unknown. Kevin’s mother, Delores Young, had wanted to suggest three recommendations to the jury: that the police not be allowed to investigate themselves in serious cases, that coroner’s inquests be conducted in a more timely manner and that the deceased’s family receive legal aid to enable them to have legal representation at such inquests.

The BC Solicitor General is responsible for coroners and police. In BC, unlike Ontario, Quebec and the UK, police investigate fatal incidents involving their own members. Their investigative report is eventually given to the coroner, who releases copies to the family only if they agree to preserve confidentiality over the file. Under the present Chief Coroner, it often takes several years to hold an inquest, which is a public hearing designed to assure the community that the circumstances of the death have not been overlooked, concealed or ignored. An inquest is mandatory whenever someone dies in police custody, but it may not find fault. Although lawyers and other representatives of the coroners office and the police appear at an inquest at public expense, there is no provision for public funding to assist the family of the deceased.

Cst. Sheremetta reportedly remains on active duty with the RCMP in Kamloops, as does Cst. Paul Koester, who fatally shot Ian Bush in Houston, BC in October of 2005. Kevin St. Arnaud leaves three young children, his parents, two younger brothers and a sister.


Crown Counsel based its decision not to charge Sheremetta on his statement to investigators, despite the investigators’ conclusion that there were major “inaccuracies” in it. Here they are:

Sheremetta testified under oath that he fired from his flat on his back after falling, that he feared for his life because Kevin advanced on him with his right hand in his pocket and that in his RCMP career to that point (23 months in Vanderhoof) he had taken concealed handguns away from suspects “many times”.

According to the testimony of two eyewitnesses, one being a 24 year veteran of the force, and according to extensive forensic analysis of the scene, Sheremetta did not fall or fire from his back. According to the RCMP eyewitness, Kevin’s hands were both visible and not in his pockets at the tme of the shooting. Although the RCMP checked its records, it was unable to produce evidence that Sheremetta had ever relieved anyone of a concealed handgun before the incident.


The homicide investigation was handled by RCMP members from Vanderhoof, Prince George and the Lower Mainland. Here is the list of participants:

Cst. Huisman, Cst. Muraca, Cst. Foy, Cst. Brown, Cst. Davidson, Cst. Davies, Cst. Michaud, Cst. Sullivan, Cst. Logan, Cst. Hudyma, Cst. Erickson, Cst. Caira, Cpl. MacLellan, Cpl. Beach, Cpl. Paul, Cpl. Gillis, Sgt. Krebs, Sgt. Doll, Sgt. Ward, Sgt. Gallant, Sgt. Gauthier, Sgt. Chanin, Staff Sgt. Kowalewich, Staff Sgt. Flath, Insp. Van de Walle, Insp. Hopkins, Insp. DeGrand, Supt. Killaly, Supt. Clark and civilian RCMP members Hall and Daborn.

By the way, none of these investigators contacted the occupants of the residence facing the shooting scene, about 100 metres away, to ask them what they saw or heard.